Title: Colony Author: Jemima Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Series: VOY Part: (complete) Rating: PG Codes: crew, J/C Date: September-November 2000 Disclaimer: Copyright has expired on the works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson quoted herein. Certain of the names below have been trademarked by Paramount; be assured I am not conducting trade with them. Summary: There'll be aliens and phaser fights and hull breaches and really wild things! You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want to settle down in the Delta Quadrant. As an added bonus, you'll find out why everyone in the galaxy looks alike. Dedication: to MJB. Borg Plot Classification: 001, 007, 009, 051, 113, 124, 236, 550, 666, 718
Colony is also available in parts (plain text).
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
"Colony" is my attempt to be serious. Other attempts have provoked feedback along the lines of "sweet", "so jetc", and "aaaaaww", so I can't say that I'm feeling very hopeful about this one. Nevertheless, I have produced an entire novella with plenty of action and plot. My muse, however, insisted on sprinkling it with humor and pouring on the J/C.
Rather than make everything up myself, I have done a bit of research for this story. Dr. Deb, my consulting physicist, helped with the megatonnages and planetary motions in parts 13 and 15, respectively. Jade, my intrepid beta-reader, verified that The Powers That Be had stolen part of my plot in a Next Generation episode, and helped me steal it back again for chapter 6. She also requested gratuitous kissyface, and I have done my best to oblige her.
I'd like to thank MJB, the author of Revolution and Revolution II (available for your reading pleasure at http://jemimap.freeshell.org/voy/mjb/) for inspiring me to write a 'crew' story. She is the Borg Queen of action-adventure with resurgent Maquis; I would never have attempted to write this story were it not for her excellent example.
The couplets I've used as little chapter inscriptions are from "Locksley Hall" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the poem which provided the lines on Voyager's dedication plaque, quoted above. I'd like to thank all the websites out there that incorrectly attribute those two lines to "Ulysses", also by Tennyson - while I was out checking my facts, I read both poems and found a couple of good lines for Chakotay in the latter. He can always use a good line.
Thanks to Christien Ruehl for his Galactic Atlas - Local Space map. All remaining credits are spoilers - they will appear at the end of part 20. The Borg Plot Classification is also a spoiler; see http://www.crosswinds.net/~jetc23/archive/plots.html for more details, but don't make me say I told you so.
Droops the heavy-blossom'd bower, hangs the heavy-fruited tree--
Summer isles of Eden lying in dark-purple spheres of sea.
Captain Janeway hadn't intended to get involved in a war. Voyager, as usual, had her own problems. They were low on dilithium again, and the Doctor claimed the bio-neural gelpacks were suffering from 'premature middle age'. Come to think of it, so was she. He'd made that clear enough at her last physical - "You're not getting any younger, Captain." She had a Vulcan and half a dozen ex-Borg to state the obvious; she didn't need the EMH getting into the act.
Somehow, Voyager had ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, again. Any day in the Delta Quadrant was the wrong place at the wrong time, but that particular day in orbit around Leigus Fifteenth - the fifteenth colony world of the Leigus Union - seemed like atrociously bad luck, even for her star-crossed crew.
At first the Leigus Union had been a dream come true - a peaceful, warp-capable society spread across two hundred star systems. It was the closest thing to the Federation they had seen in the Delta Quadrant - eerily similar, in fact, but they'd gotten used to it after a month or so. Her crew had adjusted all too well; if it weren't for the Periti, she might have had a mass desertion on her hands. This Quadrant was one long, unwanted lesson in irony. She'd have to ask Tuvok what Vulcan Poetics had to say about irony, if she ever saw Tuvok again.
The Captain contemplated the carnage around her. Leigus Fifteenth had been, until today, the trade center of the Leigus Union, and a jewel of a planet to boot; its glistening purple island-continents scattered across a turquoise-blue sea made for a breathtaking view from space. Nor had the surface disappointed. Half the crew had been on shore leave or occupied with the delivery, a shipment of highly unstable medical supplies Voyager had brought from Leigus One-hundred-twenty-second. In return, they had been promised a generous dip into Leigus Fifteenth's ample dilithium stores. Unfortunately, the dilithium stockpile was the least of the things that hadn't survived the Periti surprise attack.
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;
"Commander," Harry shouted, that ill-fated day on the bridge, "there's an unidentified ship decloaking to starboard. It doesn't appear to be Leigan."
Voyager reeled underfoot. "Shields!" Chakotay barked, and "Report!"
"Shields at eighty percent. Heavy damage to the starboard nacelle - we can't go to warp."
"Can you get a lock on the Captain?"
"No - I can't reach any of the landing parties. There's too much interference - artificially generated, by the looks of it," Harry replied.
"Hail that ship."
Another shot rocked the ship as Harry replied, "They're not responding, Commander."
Chakotay looked grim. "Tuvok, arm phasers. Target their weapons systems. Mr. Kim, keep trying to raise the Captain, and that ship."
"Shields at fifty-seven percent," was all the response he got. Phaser light lashed out at the still-unidentified attackers, dissipating across their shields.
"Their shields are holding. Arming photon torpedoes," Tuvok said.
A blinding white light filled the viewscreen before the computer could compensate for it. The ship reeled again.
"What was that?" Chakotay asked.
"A high-powered antimatter torpedo, Commander. Inertial dampeners are off-line. Shields at ten percent."
Tuvok spoke over Harry's report. "Firing photon torpedoes." Chakotay's eyes followed the silver streaks hopefully across the viewscreen to the alien ship, while his ears took in the background noise of damage reports, sizzling consoles and the occasional soft oath from Tom at the helm. "No effect, Commander," Tuvok reported. "Their shields are holding. Incoming!"
He could see that well enough himself. "Helm, evasive maneuvers."
Tom's hands flew across the console, but Voyager continued to drift along its original orbital path. "The helm is not responding, Commander," Tom said. Whether Paris slammed both hands into the console out of frustration, or because of the impact of the incoming torpedo, or from the force of the explosion of the science station behind him, Chakotay couldn't have said. The Commander glanced from the chaos before him to Harry at Ops. Fortunately he wasn't dead - yet - but he looked like he had bad news.
"Shields are down, Commander," Harry said as he opened a comm link. "Ops to Engineering. Report." The unfamiliar hiss of Engineering's fire suppression system was the first sound the bridge crew heard over the communications channel.
"Carey here," but barely, judging by the sound of his voice. "I don't know what just hit us, but it made a mess down here."
Another voice shouted to Carey, "We're losing containment, sir!"
"Get it back!" Carey yelled in reply. "Bridge, we've lost phasers, but I can give you more photon torpedoes."
"Tuvok, fire at will. Lieutenant Carey, we need shields and helm control up here."
"I'm on it, sir."
Chakotay steeled himself. Why didn't they fire? As if in response to his silent question, a single beam of phaser light sliced into the ship.
"Hull breach on decks six, seven and eight," Harry reported.
"Engineering to the Bridge," Carey's voice drifted up to them. "We're losing antimatter containment. Permission to eject the core?"
"Hold on a second, Carey," Chakotay answered. "Paris, do we have attitude thrusters?"
"Point the warp core at them, then, will you?"
"Yes, sir," Tom replied enthusiastically. The ship rotated until the core ejection chute was pointed at the mysterious ship.
"Eject the core, Carey."
The fickle heart of Voyager flew out into space. An energy pulse from the alien ship obscured it for a moment, then a glowing green beam locked onto the warp core.
"Damn," Harry announced, "the reaction has been contained - they've got the core in a tractor beam. They're hailing us, Commander."
"Put them through."
They were ugly - mottled tan cylindrical things. Or maybe they just seemed ugly because they were trying to destroy Voyager. Though they didn't appear to be speaking, the Universal Translator found something to render: "Humanoids. You are not welcome here. We will open your ship to the vacuum of space in which your weak bodies will explode. So will we treat all of your kind until you go back where--"
An explosion cut off this odd tirade before Chakotay could get a word in edgewise. "Commander," Harry reported, "a ship just dropped out of warp and fired on the alien vessel. It appears to be a Leigan patrol ship."
"It's about time," Tom commented.
"Keep an eye on the warp core, Mr. Paris." The aliens' tractor beam had failed and Voyager's engine was now riccocheting into deep space. "Ensign, try to restore shields. Tuvok, if we still have photon torpedoes then lend our friends a hand." Phaser light was glistening around the Leigan ship's shields.
Their new allies were more of a match for the belligerent tan creatures than Voyager had been. They carried on the battle in white flashes of antimatter weaponry. The Leigans couldn't spare Voyager much attention - "Can't talk now," they answered Harry's hail, and cut the link.
Tuvok was down to two photon torpedoes when their new allies suddenly disappeared in a white blaze of glory. "The Leigan patrol has been destroyed, Commander - I detect no escape pods and no life signs," Harry reported angrily.
"The enemy's shields appear to be down, Commander," Tuvok added.
"Throw whatever we've got left at their weapons array. Ops, I want those phasers back on line."
Tuvok announced a direct hit. "I believe their weapons are off-line."
"Forget the phasers. We need shields, now!"
Harry looked mystified, but did his best to comply. "Shields at thirty percent." Tom glanced over at Harry in time to see his look of dawning realization; "Commander! I'm detecting a power buildup in the alien vessel."
"All hands, brace for impact!"
"Diverting all power to shields and structural integrity, Commander," Tuvok reported calmly as he braced himself.
Yellow light flooded the bridge - a nice change, Tom thought, as he was being thrown from the helm halfway to the viewscreen. Gotta work on that bracing thi--
--ng, though, he completed the thought later when he woke up in sickbay.
"Ah, Mr. Paris, you're awake," the perpetually chipper holographic Doctor greeted him. "Please lend me a hand here - I'm about to perform surgery on Ensign Bronowski."
Tom assumed his position beside the instrument tray as he asked, "What happened?"
"Scalpel. You should know better than I," the Doctor answered.
"The last thing I remember was a blinding yellow light."
"That would be the Periti ship self-destructing. Ten cc's thoroyaxanine." The Doctor held out his hand and Tom handed him the hypospray. "You were thrown across the bridge, but fortunately you have a hard head."
"Is everyone OK?"
"There were some casualties in Engineering, and on deck six. Get a bone-knitter on that rib, please."
At least B'Elanna had been down on the planet. "What about the landing parties?" Tom asked once he finished with the fractured rib.
For the first time, the Doctor looked worried. "There's been no word from them. The planet is in pretty rough shape from the looks of it. Of course it's hard to tell just by looking out a viewport."
"You mean we don't have sensors?"
"No. Even life support was touch and go for a while there. It made me glad to be a holographic life form, I must say."
"He was last seen headed for the shuttlebay with a security detail. I don't know whether he went to collect the remains of the warp core or the Captain. Subdermal regenerator, please."
When the centuries behind me like a fruitful land reposed;
When I clung to all the present for the promise that it closed:
The Periti left as quickly as they'd come. News trickled in slowly. It was probably only a warning strike, Janeway was told by a representative of the loose structure that passed for the government of Leigus Fifteenth. Rumor had it that almost every Leigan vessel in the system had been incapacitated or destroyed by the cloaked Periti attack force. She hoped against hope that Voyager had escaped, but the afterglow of antimatter weapons in the stratosphere, the meteor shower which once had been a star fleet, and the despair in B'Elanna's eyes made it difficult for her to believe her own ship had survived the vicious onslaught.
Hope ebbed as the hours passed. Janeway tapped her comm badge for the hundredth time and heard the now familiar static of a contaminated atmosphere. "Don't bother, Captain," B'Elanna said wearily. "They won't work again until the sky stops glowing, if ever." Along with the six crewmen from Voyager they'd managed to gather without benefit of communicators, she, B'Elanna and a few Leigans were digging for survivors in the rubble of the Chamber of Commerce.
The mindless labor gave her time to reflect on the events of the past few months. They'd been crossing Leigan space, stopping here and there for shore leave, transporting supplies, taking on passengers, making friends and generally letting their hair down. For once the Delta Quadrant had seemed like a friendly place.
Three weeks before, she'd been offered a commission in the Leigan equivalent of Starfleet. Voyager's weapons systems weren't as powerful as the local armaments, but the Leigi respected her crew as explorers and scientists and were willing to integrate Voyager into the Leigus Union's fleet in that capacity. Looking back on it, that offer was the first rumor of war; at the time she was flattered, not alarmed.
More precisely, Janeway had not been alarmed at the Leigi's offer itself. She'd been too busy being alarmed at her crew and occasionally even herself. More of the crew than she was willing to admit had wanted to settle down in the Leigus Union. She had seen it written in their furtive glances and distant, dreaming eyes. Chakotay had estimated that a third of the crew was ready to desert on the spot and the rest were daydreaming about it, except for Torres, the Vulcans, the Borg and the two of them. Or so he had thought.
She wasn't so sure which side she was on. What did she want to go home for, but to continue her career in Starfleet and maybe have a chance at a private life? Here in the Leigus Union she could have both, and much more readily than in the Federation. She'd spent some time reading over the Code of Colonization, which would have regulated her conduct as a Leigan starship captain, paying particular attention to the extensive section on the right of cohabitation and the duty to reproduce. She wasn't very clear on Leigan mores, but it sounded like fraternization was definitely one of them.
One morning on the bridge, a week ago, she'd had more difficulty than usual suppressing her daydreams of garden tomatoes and red-haired, tattooed children. She'd found him smiling back at her, mocking her reverie.
"What's on your mind?" he asked.
"Tomatoes," she answered, still distracted by her dreams.
He looked in her eyes - even the memory gave her chills - and she turned away quickly, worried that too much was visible there. Rightly so, for he paused only a moment before saying, "They want to stop, too."
"All of them? Even you?"
"I don't care if I never see the Alpha Quadrant again, but as for stopping now - where you go I will go and where you stay I will stay."
She'd left herself wide open for that comment, and before she could stuff him back in the uniform over it, he spoke again. "But you're right. Not all of them want to stop, though most are thinking about it. Some are ambivalent. A few have someone at home waiting."
"Tuvok will bow to the needs of the many." Ouch. That cold, calculating Maquis tone was back in his voice. She took him for granted, but she didn't really know him - or rather, she picked and chose which parts to know and which to ignore.
"Then there are those who would want to stay, if they didn't have other people to think about."
"Harry," she replied sharply, meaning 'not me.' A year ago she wouldn't have felt it necessary to clarify that.
She recalled the gleam in his eye, and how she'd thought that the Leigan Chakotay was going to be a lot more trouble than the Starfleet one had been, trouble she was quite willing to take. Now she looked up at the glowing sky, regretting the trouble and pain she'd caused him in their all-too-short trek across the Delta Quadrant.
And she turn'd--her bosom shaken with a sudden storm of sighs--
All the spirit deeply dawning in the dark of hazel eyes--
Chakotay frowned at the rubble below, once a mid-sized city and the Captain's last known location. The shuttle's sensors were little match for the radiation suffusing the atmosphere, but if they flew low enough, they could distinguish human and Leigan lifesigns. They had found one ensign from Engineering and beamed several Leigans out of collapsed buildings. But the Commander had left Voyager in a slowly decaying orbit, so he hadn't much time left to find the Captain and B'Elanna.
The other three crewmembers in the shuttle didn't dare speak. The senior officer was in a mood only the Maquis and a few dead Cardassians had seen before, and any sentient being would have known enough to keep its mouth shut when Chakotay's eyes burned that way. As he examined the sensor console, he also searched his memory for the signs he'd missed. He should have known this attack was coming. He berated himself for failing to see the clues that must have been there somewhere, and for not inquiring more closely into the history and politics of the region.
He had behaved like they were waltzing through Sector 001 rather than traversing the ever-hostile Delta Quadrant, and now Kathryn had paid the ultimate price for his lack of vigilance. If he hadn't been daydreaming about a life with her on one of the smaller islands of Leigus Fifteenth...but it was no use rehashing his mistakes. Now they weren't settling down, they were stranded. Judging from the condition he'd left Voyager in, they weren't going anywhere soon. If he didn't find B'Elanna alive, and he didn't expect to, the ship would probably never be spaceworthy again. Carey was good, but he was no miracle-worker. Torres was the force that kept the engines going.
In the back of his mind, the Maquis considered the best way to cannibalize Voyager for parts, eyed the remains of the local infrastructure, and counted the surviving populace. He was already making the preliminary plans for a guerrilla war against the Periti. But time was running out; he needed to get back to his failing ship.
He was about to tell the pilot to turn about when the sensor console beeped. "Fifteen degrees to starboard, Ensign," he ordered instead. When they were just under a kilometer away, he called a full halt and beamed to the uneven surface with one member of his security detail. Here in the center of the city, those buildings which had not yet collapsed were in danger of doing so. Buzzing them with a shuttle was out of the question.
Tricorders were little use, so they followed the bearing the shuttle's more powerful sensors had given them until they stumbled across the blue and black of a Starfleet uniform jacket. Chakotay rushed forward, climbing up a hill of rubble to see a dusty group of Leigans in shirtsleeves pulling at a bent girder. He joined them, gripping the smooth metal and examining the faces around him.
He recognized a few crewmen in native dress. "Not what you planned to do on shore leave, Jones, is it?" the Commander asked.
A familiar Klingon growl filtered up to them from what had been the basement of the building. "Pull harder this time!" With the two extra pairs of hands, the beam finally moved. "Hold on! We almost have him," B'Elanna called. Faint dragging sounds were followed by a new order, "Ease it back down before the ceiling falls in on us."
"Is there a way down?" Chakotay asked Jones. The crewman indicated the remains of a staircase. The Commander picked up the medkit he'd brought from the shuttle and climbed down. Three figures in Starfleet dress were gathered around a moaning Leigan. His eyes were still adjusting to the semidarkness when he saw a familiar gesture: a hand pushed back a stray wisp of auburn hair. The voice that belonged to that hair asked for a piece of wood or plastic to use as a splint. The fire in his eyes was replaced by another emotion; the Periti had just gotten a reprieve.
She didn't see B'Elanna look up; she could no longer focus on the broken limb she had been feeling gingerly - she only heard his voice saying something about a medkit. A figure leaned over her, handing the kit to Crewman Mitchell, then crouched down beside her with his hand on her shoulder and his arm across her back.
"B'Elanna, you don't look so good," he said shakily. He certainly couldn't trust his voice to address the Captain.
"I need a sonic shower, that's all. How are my engines?" she asked nervously, wondering whether Chakotay had reached them in an escape pod. Mitchell wondered the same thing as he busied himself with the bone knitter.
"They've seen better days." He felt Kathryn relax slightly as he said, "We need to get back to the ship soon." B'Elanna nodded and scrambled up the shattered stairway.
"I thought you were--" the Captain began to say, but he interrupted her.
"I did too. We'll have to walk back to the shuttle - can you make it?" There was dried blood on her knees - perhaps he meant that, or maybe he was offering to leave her on the surface until she lost that shell-shocked look.
"I'm all right now. Give me a hand up." She clung to his hand afterward, asking "It's bad, isn't it?"
"We're still alive," he answered.
Eye, to which all order festers, all things here are out of joint:
Science moves, but slowly, slowly, creeping on from point to point:
Chakotay, Janeway and Torres left the security detail, the Leigan patients and a beacon at the improvised camp where the shuttle had set down. They took what engineers they had found back to Voyager, leaving the rest to continue the search for survivors and Voyager's scattered crew.
"The ship is in bad shape," Chakotay admitted to the Captain and Chief Engineer. They had gathered in the back corner of the shuttle, around the replicator. The Captain drank coffee while B'Elanna tore voraciously at a broiled Karada leg.
"How bad?" B'Elanna asked around a mouthful of food.
"We have life support for the moment, and the shuttles, but that's about it. The Doctor is running off his mobile emitter. Decks six through eight have been evacuated due to a hull breach - we couldn't spare the energy for internal force fields so we sealed them off manually. Communications and sensors are down. Phasers are down. We're out of photon torpedoes. Shields are still down."
They seemed to be taking it well, so he continued, "We had to eject the warp core. I was hoping it would blow, but the aliens--"
"The Periti," the Captain contributed.
"--did something to disarm it when it got too close."
Trying to blow up another ship with a critical warp core - she hadn't seen that one since the Kobiyashi Maru. "I'm amazed you're alive," the Captain commented.
"They were gloating at us," he said, emotion building in his normally impassive voice. B'Elanna didn't like the sound of it - an old, half-forgotten tone he had once reserved for Cardassians. "They were broadcasting purple descriptions of death by vacuum and towing our warp core in with a tractor beam when a Leigan patrol intervened."
"Where is it now?"
"The core or the patrol?" he asked, but didn't wait for an answer. "I sent another shuttle out for the warp core when I left. The patrol was destroyed. The Periti blew themselves up and almost took us out with them."
Who told *them* about the Kobiyashi Maru? she wondered.
The warp core was anchored to the floor of the shuttlebay with magnetic clamps and steel cords. String and sealing wax, B'Elanna thought, wondering how bad the damage was. The core was a sensitive piece of equipment not usually left on the floor or near magnets. She rushed toward it.
Chakotay, however, insisted that they both go to sickbay with the other crewmen who'd weathered the attack on the surface. B'Elanna heard something about "regulations" and "returning from a war zone" as they tore her away from the beached whale that had been her engine.
Comes a vapour from the margin, blackening over heath and holt,
Cramming all the blast before it, in its breast a thunderbolt.
B'Elanna looked healthy enough for the Doctor to pass her along to his medic for minor dermal regeneration. He mused on the Klingon tendency to grow healthier under stress.
"This place looks like you let Chakotay drive," B'Elanna commented bitterly to Tom.
"Don't blame me, I was unconscious. How were things planetside?"
Tom looked askance at the medical tricorder - B'Elanna hadn't rated a biobed, and they were all occupied at the moment anyway. "What were you doing down there - cleaning out a reactor?" he asked.
"No, just digging people out of the rubble. Can I get back to Engineering now?"
"Hold on a second. Doc, check the Captain for theta radiation poisoning."
"Confirmed," the hologram replied. "It's a very mild case."
"We weren't near any power sources," the Captain protested, as the Doctor injected a cure.
"Except the sky," B'Elanna replied. "I think that planet is in serious trouble. Of course we won't know for sure until we get sensors back online. I need to get to Engineering."
"Hold still," Tom said, as he administered the hypospray of counteragent.
"You're both released. Try to get some" - the Captain and Chief Engineer were out the door before the EMH could complete his prescription - "rest."
The Captain listened as B'Elanna interrogated Carey. "Why didn't you bring the warp core down here?"
"It's no use to us - the dilithium was reduced to a powder by whatever the Periti used to disarm it. We don't have enough to replace it."
"We were about to visit the dilithium refinery..." B'Elanna said.
"You're lucky, then," Harry said. He was in Engineering helping with repairs. "There's an awfully big crater where the refinery used to be - big enough to be seen from space."
Once B'Elanna had gotten what she wanted from Carey, she headed for the impulse drive, her face set with determination. The Captain called her off. "Before you get under that, B'Elanna, I'd like to have a short staff meeting."
Once she'd dragged the unwilling engineer to the conference room, the Captain began the meeting, saying, "It's nice to see you all again. I believe the Engineering report is the most pressing."
"I'll make it short," Torres said in her usual abrupt manner. "The loss of antimatter containment was caused by the Periti antimatter weaponry. I may be able to repair the core, but we have no dilithium to restart the reaction. Nor does the planet beneath us have any dilithium - it was all imported from other planets of the Leigus Union and stored in the secure refinery facility, now a crater.
"You know most systems are down. I have made impulse engines a priority, but life support is still shaky and I may not be able to keep people on the impulse drive if the chewing gum falls off one of the vital systems.
"I could also use more staff, especially some people trained in spacewalk repairs to seal the hull breach manually."
When his turn came, Tom was equally matter-of-fact. "Our orbit is decaying. We can stay out of the upper atmosphere for 2.3 more days. However, if we want to land, we'll have to do it before then, since it will be difficult to find a flat spot to coast her onto." The islands which passed for the planet's land masses were mountainous, volcanic affairs.
Then her cheek was pale and thinner than should be for one so young,
And her eyes on all my motions with a mute observance hung.
She looked good in the dimness of the bridge's emergency lighting, Tom thought - no longer the weary captain of a weary crew, but a tragic heroine upon her lonely throne, ever vigilant--
"Is there something I can do for you, Mr. Paris?" the heroine asked.
"No, ma'am." Tom turned his eyes from the sad queen to the dire helm display. They'd gotten a helpful push from a surviving Leigan patrol ship, but their orbit was still erratic at best.
She felt weary. There were still a few crewmen unaccounted for, but hints from a Leigan official seemed to indicate that they were still alive. Don't push them, Chakotay had said, when she'd insisted everyone be found and brought back to Voyager. It had been days since he had hinted that some of her crew might still want to give up on the Alpha Quadrant to settle on war-torn Leigus Fifteenth, but she couldn't quite believe that a few diehards would court death by radiation poisoning to hang on to the lost paradise that was Leigus.
More worrisome than the deserters was the new Chakotay. Had the last seven years never happened? He still wore the red and black, but his eyes blazed like they had the first time he'd materialized on her bridge. He carried himself like there was a compression phaser rifle strapped across his back again and Cardassians lurking nearby to use it on.
Where was her old Starfleet Chakotay? Most likely he had never been there - it was always the Maquis who was loyal to her, the Maquis who let her try all those harebrained schemes her late XO would have nipped in the bud, the Maquis who stood by her when he should have thrown her in the brig. She made him wear the uniform and keep his distance, but there were no pips on that man.
This had been a Maquis ship from the moment he had come aboard, she chided herself, gearing up for a good mope. The only Starfleet regulation that had lasted these seven years was the one about not getting involved with her first officer, and she'd made that one up herself. Sure, Picard had stomped on the Prime Directive and Kirk had barely known what it was, but neither of them had violated it across a whole new quadrant. And with such pizzazz...
Then there was that alliance with the Borg. Saving their sorry cybernetic behinds from Species 8472 - whatever had come over her? Couldn't she have waited until the menance of the galaxy was decimated before attempting genocide on their enemies - two birds with one stone and all that?
Oh, and that little incident with the Equinox - the only Federation vessel in this God-forsaken quadrant, and she'd...well, that was all best forgotten until the inquiry. 'Conduct unbecoming an officer' they would call it - conduct unbecoming a Hirogen was more like it. This was why Starfleet had so few female captains, not because they were weak but because they were deadly when cornered. She was only protecting her crew, but the Board of Inquiry wouldn't see it that way. She could almost hear them now...
"Did you forget about the auto-destruct, Captain Janeway? Your first officer's attempt to use the warp core as a hand grenade doesn't count."
"No," she dreamed of answering them, "I know why there's a new Enterprise every few years. What are they up to now, G? We didn't have Utopia Planetia around to churn out another Voyager whenever we got into philosophical difficulties, Your Honor. And blowing up the ship wasn't my command style."
"Ah, we've heard about your 'style'. The Delta Quadrant will never be the same. Let's get back to the charges, shall we? Genocide: Species 8472. Genocide: the Borg Collective. Genocide: 53 photonic life forms caught in your helmsman's Captain Proton simulation. Violation of the Prime Directive: I think it would be easier just to list the times you *didn't* violate it. Don't you agree?"
There was a bright side to her impending court martial - maybe she'd get to share a cell with Chakotay. Now, how had he gotten back into her thoughts? She couldn't even concentrate on moping - it must be the 18-hour shifts they were all pulling. She turned her attention back to the report on her PADD.
Overlive it--lower yet--be happy! wherefore should I care?
I myself must mix with action, lest I wither by despair.
The division did not fall neatly along Starfleet/Maquis lines as one might have expected. B'Elanna, for instance, was against helping the Leigi. She'd seen what the Periti could do to Voyager and she didn't want to have to clean up the mess - if there was anything bigger than space dust left of them - the next time.
Tom wanted to help, as did most of the crew who had been aboard Voyager during the Periti attack. He never regretted that insubordination incident with the Moneans - getting demoted for his principles had made him just that much more of an idealist. He was itching to plunge in on the side of right again.
B'Elanna chided him for his chivalry. "Now I understand why you joined the Maquis - it wasn't your bar tab, it was your death wish."
Of course he denied it.
"And it took you what? a week? to get captured by Starfleet."
"So I was a bad Maquis--" he began to excuse himself, but she interrupted.
"We were all bad Maquis. We were amateur soldiers in tin ships, and if we hadn't been sucked into this God-forsaken quadrant we would have died with the other Maquis when the professionals came along."
"Lots of people died in the Dominion war. Klingons died gloriously in battle."
She stared at him. She had no idea what to make of this - her offhand crack about his death wish was looking all too accurate.
Tom went on, almost to himself. "Look at us, limping through the Delta Quadrant like so many beggars! Look at yourself, patching the ship together time and time again with nothing but nanoprobes and sealing wax. Behold the flower of Starfleet" - he gestured theatrically at the half-empty mess hall - "digging for tubers on every M-class planet we stumble across. And the remnant of the Maquis, that brave band of dreamers who took on the Cardassian Empire--"
"--and now care more about where their next meal is coming from than about helping a free people who welcomed us as guests and defended us with their lives."
"This is not a Maquis ship," B'Elanna replied angrily.
"You're right. This is a funeral barge."
"It will be if you have any say about it."
Such arguments were repeated time and again across the ship; Delaney sister turned against Delaney sister, Neelix fell out with Sam Wildman, and Icheb argued with Seven about destiny and self-sacrifice. Harry looked nervous, Janeway ignored the subject and Chakotay grew grimmer than usual as the days wore on.
Many a night from yonder ivied casement, ere I went to rest,
Did I look on great Orion sloping slowly to the West.
News and refugees began to trickle in from other Leigan star systems. Because their propulsion systems were susceptible to theta radiation, they could not land on the surface, nor could they have transported through the poisoned atmosphere even if they'd had the technology. Voyager, still trapped in orbit, became a space station through which all visitors passed. Her hardy Starfleet shuttles were kept busy ferrying visitors and officials to and from the surface.
The Captain did not approve. There wasn't much she could do about Voyager's newfound popularity, however - the impulse drive was still off-line, the warp drive still a hopeless wreck, and the only thing keeping them out of the stratosphere was the occasional push of a Leigan tractor beam. So she left the routine diplomatic duties to her first officer while she brainstormed with B'Elanna and Seven about ways to get the engines, any of them, back on line.
Perhaps it wasn't the wisest thing to do, leaving the head of her Maquis in charge of commiserating with the Leigi, coordinating supply runs and rescue missions with the local government, and warning refugees away from the radioactive ruins of Leigus Fifteenth. So he had experience fighting ruthless enemies, organizing desperate colonists, winning against all odds - she didn't expect him to *use* it, for heaven's sake. She just wanted him to keep the neighbors happy until Voyager could get out of there under her own power.
She had certainly done smarter things in her day, she reflected as she watched him speak before a crowd of Leigan officials at a particularly important strategy session he'd dragged her to. In the space of two weeks, her first officer had become a de facto leader of the shattered Leigus Union. All she had done was repair the impulse drive, and they weren't going to resume course for Earth on impulse power alone. After the meeting, he brought a few of those Leigi officials to the conference room to speak to the senior staff.
The Captain half-listened to depressing reports about medical supplies. Said medical supplies were stocks of a certain enzyme produced naturally by the Leigi physiology in the presence of sunlight. They needed to carry supplies of it when travelling long distances in space. The manufacturing process was as delicate as its output and there had been malfunctions recently in the processing plants on Leigus Fifteenth and Leigus Prime. Voyager had brought more stocks of the enzyme from Leigus One-hundred-twenty-second, before the war.
Now the Leigi attributed those malfunctions to Periti sabotage, especially since the blockade of Leigus Prime. The Periti had flooded the atmosphere of that unfortunate world with dust - whether gathered in space or kicked up from the planet's surface was unclear - blocking out almost all sunlight and dooming two billion Leigi to a slow, painful death.
She had heard the various rescue plans discussed at the first meeting: smuggling in equipment to repair the processing plant on Leigus Prime, smuggling in enzyme stocks - a gargantuan task, and a stopgap solution at best - or driving off the Periti, but with what? Very few ships plied the Leigan spaceways now, and they were scattered, while the Periti forces were concentrated around Leigus Prime. There was nothing the crew of Voyager could do for these people except listen sympathetically to their woes. Or half-listen, in her case, but then a change of topic caught her attention.
Morel, one of the higher-ranking survivors of the local government, was speaking about recent events on Leigus Prime. "Our legends tell us that our ancestors travelled an immeasurable distance on their way here. They toured the galaxy for thousands of years, but eventually parked their ship in orbit around Leigus Prime and settled down. Slowly, the Leigi spread through these sectors, always colonizing uninhabited worlds, making deserts bloom. No one remembered the ship, until the accident a few months ago."
"We suspect the 'accident' was actually an attack by a cloaked Periti ship. An ore transport careened out of control over Leigus Prime, but a lucky shot from one of our patrol vessels managed to deflect the ship into the gravitational field of our moon. The cargo was highly unstable and exploded on impact - a 10,000 teracochrane blast."
"The moon is not inhabited, nor did we think it habitable. Our astrophysicists dutifully calculated the minor divergence in the moon's orbit which such an explosion should have caused. They checked the sensors, but they found nothing. Then they checked the sensor logs. The evidence, which has since been destroyed, was unmistakable: the moon had corrected its orbit."
"That's impossible," Neelix interjected.
"Why did you destroy the sensor logs?" Tuvok asked.
"Even before the recent Periti attacks, we knew they were bent on our annihilation. They say we invaded their space, that humanoidkind doesn't belong in this galaxy."
"But your civilization is thousands of years old," Janeway protested.
"Forty-seven thousand, by our reckoning, but the Periti have a long memory. Every five thousand years or so they start a war. They expend all their resources, knocking themselves back into the Stone Age and leaving half the sentient population - themselves, us, noncombatants - dead for parsecs around. Then they regroup, while we recover."
"Just our luck - always in the wrong place at the wrong time," Tom muttered.
"When we found out about the moon, we realized we must keep it a secret. If they knew we had an escape route, a way to transport our civilization to a friendlier corner of space, they would go mad with rage. They would push the ship into the sun even if it cost them a million Periti lives, 'to keep the humanoid infection from spreading'. So we destroyed the sensor logs."
Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.
"Exactly where do your people say you came from?" the Captain asked. Chakotay had seen her near death, beyond it, and even assimilated by the Borg, but he'd never seen her quite so pale.
"Computer, display the night sky over Leigus Prime." Morel pointed and said, "This is the origin point of the humanoid races."
"That's not a star," Tom said nervously. A pilot knows his stars.
"What do you mean? What else could it be?" Neelix demanded, disturbed by the tension suddenly filling the conference room.
"It's the Perseus Galactic Cluster," Tom answered. He shuddered visibly.
"Abell 426," Seven explained, preferring the numerical classification, "three hundred million light years from our current position." Her voice was tinged with an awe she usually reserved for perfection. "It is part of the Pisces-Perseus supercluster, which contains more than a thousand galaxies."
A cold vacuum, three hundred million light years wide, seemed to fill the small conference room. Tom was exceedingly nervous - a pilot knows his captain as well as his stars.
"That ship must have a faster-than-warp drive," Janeway said. The chilly light of distant stars glittered in her eyes.
"That's putting it mildly," Tom commented.
The Captain wondered why the Leigi had chosen to share this particular secret with the senior staff of Voyager. Was it just their implicit belief in the fellowship of humanoidkind? She glanced at Chakotay, but his expression was unreadable.
He saw her inquiring look and knew that she hadn't understood. He'd asked the Leigi not to lay this trap for her, not to tempt her with that moon, but they wouldn't listen. They wanted his help, his professional help as a freedom fighter, and that meant convincing Janeway to let him help.
It'll take more than a little dilithium to get her involved in your war, he'd told them - she wants a transwarp drive, and only the Borg have that kind of technology. That was when they'd told him about the moon.
Tom interrupted the long silence with one last question for the Leigi. "Pardon me if everyone asks you this, but if you enjoy colonizing so much, why don't you just move?"
"The Periti would follow us. We will not lead them to the worlds of other humanoids. The Leigus Union has been a match for them so far - but without us to keep them occupied, they would do even greater damage to humanoidkind."
Men, my brothers, men the workers, ever reaping something new:
That which they have done but earnest of the things that they shall do:
Her XO looked like he was about to drop another bomb in her lap, and there was no coffee for Janeway to brace herself with.
"Captain, I need to speak with you in your ready room."
She frowned, but stood and followed him. At Ops, Harry carried on looking nervous.
"What is it?" she asked him bluntly after the doors closed behind them.
She sounded tired, bone-tired, but he wasn't about to protect her from this truth. The situation was only getting worse as time went by. "It's the crew," he answered. Could she see it?
"They're under a lot of stress," she excused them. "We've all been working eighteen-hour days since the attack." How she wished they hadn't had to stay in orbit around this devastated planet for so long.
"It's more than that. They're dividing up."
"Are you saying the Maquis want to get involved in the war?" she asked. She would have been surprised, if she'd had the energy to spare for it.
"Not the Maquis per se. Half the crew wants to...I suppose 'get involved' is as specific as anyone has gotten. More Maquis want to help than don't, but a large minority of Starfleet also want to do something for the Leigi."
"What do you want to do?"
She really was tired - it wasn't like her to ask, but to dictate. "My personal feelings are irrelevant. The crew--"
"You're a member of my crew as much as any of them. I want to know."
"I want what the Captain wants, only I'm afraid she can't have it this time."
"What does the Captain want?" she asked.
"Peace and good speed on her journey."
"Our journey," the Captain corrected him.
"If she isn't careful, there won't be an 'us' anymore."
She stared at him. Whatever he might say, she knew he would jump at an order to help the Leigi. He was angry again - not at her, but at the Periti - and she knew the days of her tame Maquis XO were over.
She had sensed the crew slipping out of her grasp - at first, she'd confused it with her own loss of control on Leigus. She'd put a good front on it, but she'd thought they were all dead and Voyager returned to her constituent atoms. Afterwards, they were all worn down with the delay in finding their scattered crew, the constant fear of the Periti's return, and the slow pace of repairs. It took her a while to see what was happening.
They were slipping away from her, betrayed by the crippled ship and the endless quadrant. The tattered shreds of the seven-year dream of returning home were worn too thin for them. She couldn't blame them, or expect a captain's willpower from ensigns and crewmen. She wrote off the few who hadn't come back aboard as lost already, and knew that as the years passed, the toll would only increase.
If Chakotay was right, though, there might be an earthquake instead of the slow erosion she'd come to expect. Here he was warning her, expecting her to ignore him as usual, but she knew she couldn't push her luck this time. This time things were going to blow up in her face if she ignored him, possibly even if she listened.
"What can we do?" she asked.
"I'm not sure. Something to unify the crew, something that will help the Leigi and also help Voyager."
"You have an idea."
"I was thinking, we could send the Delta Flyer and another shuttle to run the blockade on Leigus Prime. The Periti don't have transporter technology--"
"Neither do we, at the moment," she said bitterly. She didn't like the idea of risking their few functional warp drives on a mission to the other end of the sector.
"The shuttles' transporters work - we could enhance them. We can transport the medical supplies to Leigus Prime, and retrieve the dilithium we need."
He made it sound so innocent. "What about the Prime Directive?"
"The Leigi are a warp-capable society."
"They don't have transporters."
"They won't afterwards, either."
"And who will lead this mission?" she asked.
"I'm the most qualified smuggler aboard."
Well, she'd seen that one coming a mile away. If she couldn't spare the shuttles, she certainly couldn't spare her first officer. "Who else?" she wondered aloud. Who else would he take that she couldn't spare?
"Paris, Dalby, Ayala, Neelix, Jenny Delaney..." They were enough to man the shuttles, and too many to lose. He also planned to bring along a few of the Leigi.
"There must be a safer source of dilithium."
"But not of unity. If we get ourselves killed, you'll have unity as well."
With that cold Maquis logic, so much more daunting than Tuvok's, he'd hand-picked the most vociferous and influential of the pro-Leigi crew, just to get them out of her hair for a while. Or perhaps permanently.
"Don't get yourselves killed." Somehow, she knew the Periti were in greater danger than he was. What would Starfleet say if - when - they found out she'd let her Maquis loose on the Cardassians of the Delta Quadrant?
As he stood to leave her ready room, she made one last request. "Take a look at that moon for me while you're out there, Chakotay."
"Yes, Captain," he replied, his face suddenly expressionless.
There methinks would be enjoyment more than in this march of mind,
In the steamship, in the railway, in the thoughts that shake mankind.
"Let me get this straight - did you just say you're going with *Chakotay* in a *shuttlecraft* on a *Maquis* operation?" B'Elanna paced the floor of their cabin, looking ready to strangle someone.
"Right on, baby."
"This death wish thing has got to stop, Tom."
"I won't let him drive."
"Who's going to stop him once you've been captured and dragged off to Periti New Zealand?"
"Ayala, I suppose."
"This isn't funny, Tom."
"Far from it, B'E. Don't worry about us. Fix the old barge and we'll bring you the dilithium."
"I've had enough of this." Her tone had changed; he didn't know what she was complaining about - it didn't even sound like his fault this time.
"Of what, B'E?" he asked gently.
"This whole death march through the Delta Quadrant. All the time, 'Fix it, Torres,' even though most of 'it' has been blown out into space, vaporized or sucked into an anomaly.
"I can see it now," she fumed on, "Chakotay will manage to crash both shuttles and come back flying a Periti garbage scow. Then who has to produce more shuttles out of string and nanoprobes, eh? 'Torres, we're out of shuttles again. Can you do something about it? Thanks.'
"I want it to stop. Let's settle down on a nice, deserted planet. We can build a real shuttlecraft factory so you and Chakotay can crash all you want."
"Wouldn't you be bored?" Tom asked.
"Sure I would. I want to be bored. I'd already racked up a lifetime's worth of excitement in the Maquis before Chakotay pulled that kamikazi stunt with my ship. Now I've had enough for several generations."
"I didn't think you were tired of playing Starfleet," Tom reflected.
"She's tired, Tom. It's rubbed off on me. From me it infected my staff. It's going around. Look at you, suddenly a Maquis again after all these years. It's not idealism, it's boredom. You're tired of playing Helm Boy and I'm tired of playing Mr. Scott."
"What would you do on an uninhabited world?"
"I'd build something."
Slowly comes a hungry people, as a lion, creeping nigher,
Glares at one that nods and winks behind a slowly-dying fire.
The plan had improved over the past week. Quite a bit of intelligence about the Periti forces surrounding Leigus Prime had been gathered. The Doctor and Seven had modified some of her Borg nanoprobes to produce the Leigi's missing enzyme. The Leigi, for their part, had offered to contribute two of their own shuttlecraft and whatever extra personnel might be required. In the end, Voyager stood to lose only the Delta Flyer II, Chakotay, his five hand-picked idealists and Icheb, who'd been added to the mission roster as a backup source of nanoprobes.
Jenny Delaney was with Dalby and three Leigi on one of the Leigan shuttles. Neelix, Ayala and Icheb had just transported to the other, which was already manned by two Leigi. Tom and Chakotay were alone in the Delta Flyer with most of their supplies and equipment. As soon as they cleared the shuttlebay, Chakotay hailed Dalby and Ayala on a secure channel.
The official plan was a mere flyby of Leigus Prime, beaming down the nanoprobes and a couple of the Leigi passengers and beaming up dilithium, under covering fire from their Leigan escort. Tom had never thought much of the plan, and now that they were moving away from Voyager, Chakotay voiced similar doubts to Dalby and Ayala. None of them expected to be able to transport through the Periti jamming field, so they discussed methods of disrupting it instead.
It was standard Maquis practice to have a slew of contingency plans, and Tom listened to Chakotay with a mixture of excitement and dread as the plans multiplied. Most of them involved the destruction of the Delta Flyer, though some featured a very bumpy landing on Leigus Prime or its mysterious moon. He particularly liked the one where he and Chakotay would impersonate non-humanoids being pursued by the two Leigan ships. There was a good deal of poetic justice in that one, although it also involved the untimely demise of this his favorite shuttle.
Chakotay, Dalby and Ayala were up to Plan F when Chakotay looked over at his pilot during a lull in the conversation. "Tom?" he said inquiringly.
"Commander?" Paris replied in the same tone.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Chakotay asked, staring at the Maquis insignia which had replaced the hard-won Starfleet lieutenant's pips on Tom's collar.
"'By any means necessary', Commander," he answered, quoting a popular Maquis expression.
"Be sure *she* doesn't see it, Tom."
Leigus Prime wasn't close by - it would take a week at high warp to reach the besieged planet. Neelix spent much of the time in the small kitchen of Shuttle Third mastering Leigan recipes. Tom had given it that name when he'd dubbed the Delta Flyer 'Shuttle Prime' and the other Leigan vessel 'Shuttle Second'.
The Leigi were curious about the Federation - their fellow passengers on Shuttle Second kept Jenny and Ken busy discussing its extent, population, and colonial practices. Talbid and Inna, the Leigan crew of Shuttle Third, were at a disadvantage, since neither Neelix nor Icheb had ever been to the Alpha Quadrant and Ayala's tales were all dark ones of the Cardassians, whom he painted as an evil force not wholly unlike the Periti. Yet the natives were unwilling to talk about the Leigus Union, their two hundred colony worlds most of whose fates were still unknown.
In such an atmosphere, Neelix was surprised when Inna joined him in the kitchen the third morning looking positively cheerful. He smiled back at her and asked, "What's gotten into you?"
"Congratulations! Who's the lucky man?"
Her voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. "Talbid, but don't tell him. He doesn't know yet." Neelix fell back on the natural defense of the Talaxian: looking dumb and waiting for more information. Inna bubbled on. "What do they do in the Federation when someone gets engaged?"
"Well, an engagement party would be in order - that is, unless you're planning to hold the wedding right away like Tom and B'Elanna did."
It was Inna's turn to be puzzled. "You told me that Tom's wife was of a different race, but I've never heard of a humanoid whose gestational period was that short."
"Gestational period?" he asked, in that shocked but debonair way Talaxians had honed to a fine art.
She nodded. "Talbid and I will be married in seven months, when our child is born."
Neelix explained to Inna that Tom and B'Elanna had no children yet, and that at the other end of the galaxy, people often got married before having offspring. This necessitated a description of the marriage ceremony as a thing distinct from childbirth itself.
In the end, Inna decided to hold a little engagement party, and the look on Talbid's face when he found out he was engaged warmed Neelix's Talaxian toes.
Thou shalt hear the "Never, never," whisper'd by the phantom years,
And a song from out the distance in the ringing of thine ears;
Harry had been dead tired when he crawled into the Jeffries tube to patch yet another plasma conduit. Ten minutes later, Torres heard him cry out in pain and rushed in after him. Finding him conscious, she reamed him out in Klingon, dragged him back into Engineering, and ordered Ensign Vorik to carry him to Sickbay. Fixing the internal transporters was at the very bottom of her to-do list, and, after twenty hours straight in Engineering, Vorik could use the walk.
As the EMH ran a regenerator over the burns on Harry's arm and side, Vorik asked his professional opinion of the Leigi's mythology. Harry, however, had recovered enough to interrupt.
"You don't seriously believe that story about humanoids coming from another galaxy, do you Vorik?"
"It is within the realm of possibility, Ensign Kim. In fact, many scientists have speculated on this point. Am I not correct, Doctor?"
The Doctor fairly hummed with self-importance, and began lecturing them as though this were another one of his 'Noses of the Delta Quadrant' slideshows: "The Distant Origin theory has a long and impressive history. Although most humanoid races prefer to believe that they evolved independently on the planets on which they now find themselves, the more intelligent ones, such as the Vulcans, are willing to consider the possibility that humanoids share a common origin."
"Is that because we all have DNA?" Harry asked.
"DNA is just one piece of evidence for the Distant Origin theory. Another frequently cited fact is the age of most planets on which humanoids dwell - the pattern, at least in the Alpha Quadrant, is that of settlement on newer planets around relatively young suns. Although the Earth may seem very old to you, Mr. Kim, many biologists believe that it has not been around long enough for a creature as complex as man to have evolved there. Ergo, humans must come from somewhere else."
"But the Leigi said they came here only 50,000 years ago. What about the fossils?"
"The Leigi came to Leigus Prime 50,000 years ago. They don't say how long beforehand they were at Earth, if they were the ones to colonize Earth. There are also some rather...esoteric theories about aliens seeding planets with DNA and coming back much later to see how things turned out. Following up the research of Professor Galen, his mentor, Captain Picard of the Enterprise discovered a message encoded in the DNA of several Alpha Quadrant species by just such a civilization, millions of years ago. They claimed to have seeded many worlds with DNA - Earth, Indrii VIII, Vilmor II, Loren III, and others. Perhaps that ancient humanoid race was an advance force, paving the way for the later Leigan colonists.
"In any event, the relevant archaeological fact here is that humans clearly weren't leaving Earth on their own power 50,000 years ago, yet your humanoid relatives already filled the quadrant at that time. The probability that even two humanoid species arose through convergent evolution - in layman's terms, by dumb luck - is negligible."
"Point zero zero zero zero zero one three percent, to be precise," Vorik added.
"You would die of old age before Vorik could read out all the zeros involved in the convergent evolution of *all* of the several thousand humanoid species listed in the Federation databanks. Since we were flung across the galaxy, Voyager has found hundreds more. In a normal universe, Humans would be as different from Vulcans as you are from the Horta, and we would stumble across new races as rarely as we find non-humanoids like the Periti."
"But Perseus, of all places!" Harry moaned, not at the lingering pain of the plasma burns but at the frightening vastness of space and time.
"Perseus is actually a much better spot for humanoid life to have evolved - all those galaxies, all that variety. The Milky Way is just a lonely backwater of the universe."
"But it's home - or at least it seemed like home."
Love took up the glass of Time, and turn'd it in his glowing hands;
Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands.
Jenny Delaney missed her sister and wished she hadn't left in the middle of a fight - yet another fight about the Leigi. Even with a war going on, Jenny wanted to stay here in the Leigus Union. Why go home? she'd asked Megan even before the Periti came. Did she think the Federation was any safer from the Borg? Far from it. Considering all the problems Janeway had caused them, assimilating Starfleet ought to be the Borg's main strategic objective. Many of the Leigus colony worlds, on the other hand, were peaceful agricultural settlements with nothing to threaten or tempt the Borg.
Jenny had a thing for Ken Dalby - her sister had forgotten about it, fortunately - and she worried more and more as they got closer to home that all their Maquis would end up in Federation prisons. While eavesdropping on Ken, she'd overheard talk among some of the Maquis about 'respect for colonists' and various other virtues of the Leigus Union as a place to settle down. She'd started to study Leigan culture then, furtively reading the data pads Ken lent her like they were contraband rather than publicly available information. The twin knew that taking too much interest in the local fauna wouldn't go over well with her superiors - there was no regulation against it, just the tacit understanding that they were only 'passing through'. When she'd finally gotten up the courage to mention deserting, her sister really got mad. How could she turn on the Captain that way?
In the tight quarters of Shuttle Second, she'd been enraptured by Ken's tales of the outer colonies. She frowned as he talked of Picard's treaty and how those free worlds had become a 'demilitarized' zone. His Leigan audience could hardly believe that the Cardassians were humanoid. Jenny, for her part, made no attempt to defend the Federation or their warlike allies on Cardassia Prime.
On the sixth day of their trip, she found herself seated next to Dalby on one of the cramped shuttle's benches, shivering involuntarily as the Leigan pilot announced ship after ship on the long-range sensors. Ken put an arm around her and she leaned against him - like a comrade in the trenches, she thought. But he kissed her hair and muttered something about getting engaged. With a wicked gleam in her eye, she whispered back, "You know how that's done here..."
The last day of the trip to Leigus Prime was again consumed in plotting and evaluating the long-range sensor data. Chakotay and Ayala were not satisfied with the scans; they decided to send Shuttle Second ahead for a closer look. So the Commander hailed them and asked whether they'd like to make any crew rotations before heading out on the mission. Jenny recognized this as an oblique offer to her; seeing no hesitation in the faces of the Leigan crew, and expecting none from Ken, she replied, "Today is a good day to die."
Can I but relive in sadness? I will turn that earlier page.
Hide me from my deep emotion, O thou wondrous Mother-Age!
The Captain was crammed into a Jeffries tube with her chief engineer, rewiring the deflector array by hand. As usual, she'd left someone else - Tuvok this time - to deal with the Leigi while she supervised repairs. For once, though, she wished she hadn't passed off her Leigi problem. B'Elanna was tired and snappish, and now the half-Klingon was asking personal questions about her and Chakotay.
"I've grown accustomed to his face," Janeway answered reluctantly. If she'd had any coffee in the past month, she might have deflected the question a bit better than that, but without caffeine she couldn't work up a good glare.
"Did you tell him that before you sent him on that mission?" Torres spit out the last word as though it were a Klingon expletive.
"That 'mission' was his idea, and our only chance of getting out of this God-forsaken quadrant."
"Did you tell him?"
Janeway counted to ten, silently, reminding herself that B'Elanna was one of the few people on Voyager whom she could count on to focus on the goal of getting home rather than on the troubles of the Leigi. And the deflector array was not going to be fixed any quicker with her best engineer in the brig for insubordination.
"I don't have to tell him; he knows."
"I don't know. Why don't you tell me? It's too late to tell tales once you're on the Barge of the Dead."
Janeway sighed. "I don't know either. Sometimes it's like he's my brother, and sometimes he's my right hand, inseparable from me and indispensable. Sometimes it seems like he's the captain of this ship and I'm only a figurehead, but other times he's just my prisoner, on the long journey to a Federation jail cell."
"It's too late to make up your mind, on the Barge of the Dead."
"I, for one, have no plans to sail on that ship for quite some time yet."
"Me, neither," B'Elanna replied with a toothy grin. She admired the Captain's ability to fight destiny like a rabid p'tak, but her inner Klingon knew that the Fates could only be dodged for so long. Seven years was a good record, especially for a human, but she was only postponing the inevitable.
The Captain didn't want to know what Torres was grinning to herself about, and in any event the engineer's expression quickly changed as she opened the next panel, revealing a block of blackened and melted isolinear chips. A torrent of Klingon oaths, interspersed with the phrases 'the Periti' and 'let Chakotay drive', failed to impress the fried circuitry.
Jenny had been the most enthusiastic member of the expedition; now Tom missed hearing her voice over the comm system. He hadn't been looking forward to a week in the Delta Flyer with Chakotay, but the senior officer had turned out to be pretty good company. When he wasn't sleeping in the back or plotting with Ayala, he told Tom stories of B'Elanna's exploits in the Maquis. The pilot had heard most of them before, but not from Chakotay's perspective.
"Why Jenny?" Tom wondered. Chakotay turned towards him and he realized he had spoken the question aloud. "I mean, I know why I'm on this mission. I'm a good pilot, and I had loud arguments with B'Elanna over the Leigi, in public places. Ken was even more vocal, in his own way. Neelix wore his sympathy for them on his sleeve, where everyone had to look at it three times daily in the messhall. You and Ayala are good at this sort of thing, and Icheb is a medical necessity. But why did the Captain send Jenny?"
"You're assuming it was the Captain's idea."
"Isn't everything? Whether or not Jenny volunteered, I guess deep down I think Janeway was trying to get rid of us. I mean, why Neelix? He may be a good guy to have around in diplomatic situations, but the Leigi are already friendly. It's obvious he's only here so that he won't be there, on Voyager."
"I chose the away team, Tom." It was gratifying, even after all these years, to see the surprise on Paris' face.
Iron-jointed, supple-sinew'd, they shall dive, and they shall run,
Catch the wild goat by the hair, and hurl their lances in the sun;
The Leigi had salvaged one Periti cloaking device from the battle of Leigus Fifteenth. Unfortunately for Jenny, it had been installed in Shuttle Third, not Shuttle Second. Chakotay wouldn't risk it on a mere reconnaissance mission. Instead, the crew of Shuttle Second would do it the hard way - prod the Periti hornets' nest until something flew out to sting them.
First, they swept by in a comet's orbit - merely brushing the edge of the solar system. The Periti did not respond. Ken had the pilot hang back for a few hours, then come in from another direction, passing through the cold outer reaches of the system, where Neptune and Pluto would have been, if this had been Sol and her familiar planets. Still, the Periti made no response.
It was a good sign, Jenny thought; the Periti didn't feel they had the manpower - or rather, the non-humanoid-power - to chase down every passing ship. Then again, it was dangerous to speculate about the thought processes of non-humanoids, or so the Leigi said. Shuttle Second cut across what would have been the orbit of Jupiter, but on the far side of the sun from Leigus Prime. The Periti dispatched two ships, and the humanoids fled at warp speed. At the edge of the system, the Periti turned about and rejoined the blockade.
They waited four hours this time before trying their luck again. Maquis operating procedure dictated much longer pauses, but the endangered Leigi couldn't spare the time to run their guerrilla war properly. Starting just beyond sensor range, they went to warp and came back out just out of weapons range. Pushing the impulse drive to its limit, they fled first and looked behind them afterwards. Jenny's eyes went wide at the sight of at least twelve Periti ships in pursuit, three of them bigger than Voyager, all of them bigger than Shuttle Second.
"Cheer up, Jen - it's a good sign," Ken said. "They're easily drawn off. We can probably get through the blockade by--" Ken was interrupted by an explosion which rocked the ship.
"Shields at 74%," Ken reported from the shuttle's tactical console. "That was one of their antimatter weapons - we can't go to warp until we're clear of the debris." By then, he didn't say, there would probably be more debris.
Fortunately, the small shuttle was more maneuverable than the hulking Periti ships. Their Leigi pilot evaded antimatter torpedoes and - it all happened so quickly Jenny missed it - managed to dart between two of the smaller Periti ships, where one took out the other with phaser fire intended for Shuttle Second.
"We're not here to destroy them," Ken reminded the pilot, "just to test their reflexes."
"They're slow," he answered the Maquis, but obediently turned into a slingshot maneuver around the moon. Why are all pilots like that? Ken wondered. Suddenly, a lucky shot rocked the ship.
"Shields are down. The impulse drive is down," Ken reported calmly. Jenny rushed to the back of the ship with one of the Leigi to attempt repairs.
Dalby was glad she had something to distract her while he related the worst of the news. "We are caught in the moon's gravitational field - can we break out using the warp drive?" he asked the hotshot pilot.
"I wouldn't normally recommend it, sir, but under the circumstances..."
They had barely engaged the warp drive when Ken's voice rang through Shuttle Second. "We've come out of warp! The warp core is off-line." He glanced at the sensor readouts, then shouted again, so that Jenny could hear him in the back, "Shut everything down!" His hands flew across the tactical console.
Jenny crawled over pieces of the disassembled impulse drive to reach the front of the shuttle. "You've cut off life support." At that moment, Ken cut the lights as well, and the shuttle became unnaturally still.
Ken began to whisper in broken Leigan. He must have taken the universal translator off-line as well, Jenny realized. She hadn't known he'd learned so much of the local language. After a short discussion with the three Leigi, he translated the gist into Standard for her.
"The warp drive couldn't take the strain of breaking out of the moon's gravitational field. The warp field collapsed almost immediately - we barely cleared the outer planets. I didn't see the Periti on the sensors, so I assumed they went to warp behind us. If we run silent, we may be able to lose them entirely."
"How long can we go without life support?"
Make me feel the wild pulsation that I felt before the strife,
When I heard my days before me, and the tumult of my life;
"They're late," Tom said, as he brought Shuttle Prime to a halt at the rendezvous point. Chakotay said nothing.
After an hour and a half, Tom spoke again. "How long are we going to wait here?"
"Six hours," Chakotay answered gruffly.
Tom decided to take a catnap. Two hours later, he was awakened by a soft beep from Chakotay's console. "A ship is dropping out of warp at the designated co-ordinates," the Commander explained.
"It's them," Tom said, when the battered profile of Shuttle Second appeared on the screen.
Dalby's voice came over the comm system. "Mission accomplished. However, we've lost impulse power."
Dalby went on to explain that once they'd turned the power back on in Shuttle Second, it had taken almost an hour to recreate the warp field - a difficulty inherent in Leigan warp technology.
Chakotay beamed Tom over in exchange for Dalby. Paris was very good with impulse drives, and the two Maquis needed to review the new information and choose their course of action. They resolved on the Poetic Justice plan long before Shuttle Second was repaired.
Tom gave the engine a once-over. They would have to replicate parts to fix it, and it would take a while. He and one of the Leigi tinkered with it; Jenny served tea. She had changed over the years, Tom thought as he watched her out of the corner of his eye. He hadn't kept tabs on the single girls like he used to, not since he'd gotten involved with B'Elanna three years before. It seemed like forever since he and Harry had double-dated and played Captain Proton with the Delaney Sisters. Jenny hadn't been so...domestic back then.
Tom stood back as his companion wrestled with a spanner. He took the opportunity to chat with Jenny. "So how was the trip? It looks like you got banged up a bit."
"Yeah," she said.
"Weren't you afraid?"
Her answer was surprisingly bitter. "What's another day in a tin ship being fired on by nasty aliens? It certainly beats being sucked out of Hydroponics in a hull breach. At least *we* were doing something worthwhile."
"And we're not done yet," Tom said, flashing her a mischievous grin as he leaned over the remains of the engine.
Eventually, no longer four hours but four days behind schedule, the shuttles headed for Leigus Prime.
Captain Janeway was holding an impromptu engineering conference in the mess hall. Torres, Carey, Vorik, Seven and Harry were bouncing around ideas about primitive sensor systems. The new Leigan cook was pretty good, though he wasn't as cheerful as Neelix; nevertheless, the harried staff pushed the slightly radioactive Leigan pot roast around their plates like so much leola root.
Seven was for restoring the sensors to their pre-war configuration, including all Borg modifications made over the years. Carey, on the other hand, wanted to start with a sonar-like system, little more than old-fashioned radar - using the deflector array to send and collect the electromagnetic waves. Janeway was fuming at the image of her once-graceful Intrepid-class starship reeling away from the slightest false radar signal like a frightened bat. She was almost glad to see Tuvok approaching the table, interruption in his eyes - almost.
"The Leigi have news," Tuvok said blandly.
Yes, the Leigi had plenty of news - three hundred thousand dead on Leigus Seventh, two million killed on Leigus Eighty-third, and the other million evacuating to its barren sister planet. Tuvok couldn't handle the Leigi quite as well as Chakotay had, so she'd already had to listen to far too many of these news reports in person. The Leigi seemed to think that if they reported directly to her, she'd be more likely to do something. What, exactly, they thought she could do was beyond her.
"Carry on," she told the others as she turned to follow Tuvok back to the conference room.
On her pallid cheek and forehead came a colour and a light,
As I have seen the rosy red flushing in the northern night.
The Captain faced the usual assortment of prelates, legates, attaches and other representatives of the amorphous Leigus Union. A tired and bedraggled man, probably the one who had brought the latest news from yet another decimated colony, was introduced to her as Ovin.
"Have you come from Leigus Eighty-third?" she asked him, trying to sound concerned instead of merely tired.
"No, ma'am," he answered her, "I've come from Leigus Prime."
Janeway shot a look at Tuvok, who replied with a raised eyebrow. Apparently, he knew no more than she did. Ovin began his story.
"I was part of a small expedition that was...charting the moon." A prelate whispered in the speaker's ear; his eyes widened for a moment, then he spoke again, but softly, as though discussing a state secret. "We were looking for the way in. My pilot and I set down our shuttle in a small crater and began to explore part of the cave system we were mapping. The composition of the caves blocked all communications; by the time we'd finished our day's work, the battle of Leigus Prime was over.
"We assumed the other ships in our expedition had joined the battle and been destroyed. Unwilling to draw the Periti's attention to the moon, we remained hidden on the surface. A month later, our sensors picked up a Leigan shuttle behaving erratically. It passed through the system a couple of times, then came to Leigus Prime but was chased off by at least ten Periti ships.
"From then on, we kept a close eye on the sensors. Five days later, we picked up two Leigan shuttles pursuing an unidentified ship. They swung around the sun and into the blockade force. The other ship tried to land aboard one of the Periti motherships, but something went wrong and both of them exploded. Something must have happened to one of the Leigan shuttles, too, because they attempted to land on the moon. We saw that they had gone down in a sheltered crater near ours, so we took the opportunity to escape. The Periti were fooled; they chased us out of the system as though we were that other ship. They took out our weapons systems and killed my pilot, but I'm fairly certain they never realized we weren't the people they were after."
"Do you know what happened to the other Leigan shuttle?" Janeway asked, looking pale.
"As far as I could tell from the sensors, the Periti hit it and took out its engines. It was plunging into the atmosphere of Leigus Prime when we lifted off from the moon."
"They may all be dead," she said to Tuvok once the Leigi had left the conference room.
"It is a logical possibility," he answered.
"They should have been back already," she told Tuvok a week later.
"Evidently there were complications."
Complications - that was Tuvok's term for managing to crash three shuttles at once. But Janeway had known Tom and Chakotay's record with shuttlecraft when she'd let them go on that wild mission.
"What's the dilithium situation?"
Tuvok raised an eyebrow at the question, but decided to respond as though the Captain didn't already know the answer. "Leigus Prime is the only planet in the region with natural dilithium deposits. The other stockpiles were gathered on long-range missions. The Leigi do not plan any more such missions for the near future."
"I'm going after them, Tuvok."
Ah, the famous Vulcan technique of Selective Deafness! He was implying she was a rational being who could not possibly have said what she had just said. But it was ineffective - she continued to pain her stoic friend with her irrational plans. "We're dead in the water without dilithium, and I'd also like to get a look at that moon. I'll need Torres - Carey can handle the repairs from here on."
"Captain, as your security officer, I would be--"
"--the logical choice," she finished his sentence. "I know, but if anyone can get that moon moving again, it's B'Elanna."
"You intend to complete the Commander's mission," Tuvok stated calmly. Janeway should have been familiar with the Vulcan technique of Stating The Obvious, but she had always thought of it as an annoying cultural trait rather than a tactical move. Thus, she fell into his trap.
"Yes, I do."
"Then I recommend that you include Seven of Nine in your away team." The jaws of logic closed around her.
"Seven?" she asked, realizing she'd made a false step.
"You may require her nanoprobes to save the Leigi," Tuvok explained.
She'd forgotten about the humanoiditarian aspect of Chakotay's mission. "Fine," she muttered. "I'll also need Ovin, as a guide."
"I'm sure he will be honored to accompany you."
I had been content to perish, falling on the foeman's ground,
When the ranks are roll'd in vapour, and the winds are laid with sound.
Icheb had managed to ignore the storyteller for quite some time, but now he found himself putting down his medical equipment as he became engrossed in the story.
"So Lieutenant Paris, who had rebuilt Shuttle Prime with the Chief Engineer of Voyager just a few months before, *beamed*" - here Neelix raised his voice and made shimmering motions with his hands - "over to Shuttle Second to repair their impulse drive. He worked day and night for four days, and finally the damaged shuttle was ready to help run the blockade of Leigus Prime."
Neelix's voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper and his Leigi audience leaned forward instinctively to catch every word. "The three shuttles got into formation - Shuttle Prime in the lead, and Shuttles Second and Third trailing close behind. Commander Chakotay gave the order, and Lieutenant Paris took Shuttle Prime to warp. The others waited a moment, then gave chase."
"Shuttle Prime dropped out of warp at that pretty gas giant--"
"Xanwee - the one with the rings," a member of the audience prompted.
"Xanwee!" Neelix echoed. "Commander Chakotay pretended to hide in the rings of Xanwee, and Talbid on Shuttle Third and Dalby on Shuttle Second pretended to discover Shuttle Prime's hiding place. They chased Commander Chakotay out of the rings on impulse power.
"Next, Commander Chakotay called for help. And who do you think he called?" Neelix peered around at his spellbound audience.
"Voyager?" a young boy suggested.
Neelix smiled and him and shook his head. "No, not Voyager. He hailed the Periti!" The boy gasped. "He sent them a false image of a non-humanoid species from the Alpha Quadrant called a Horta, and he told the Periti that some 'vile humanoids' were trying to destroy his ship."
"Did they believe him?" the boy asked.
"It seemed that they fell for the ruse. Remember, they'd never seen Voyager or her shuttlecraft - the one Periti ship that attacked Voyager had been completely destroyed."
Neelix returned to the main thread of his story. "Commander Chakotay requested permission to land on a Periti ship. To corroborate his story, Talbid fired on him, and Shuttle Second circled around to cut off the Horta's escape."
"Then the Periti began to fire on Shuttles Second and Third. I was on Shuttle Third, and I felt every blast of those terrible weapons. Our shields were soon down to 20%. We saw Dalby eject Shuttle Second's warp core. Before the Periti could disable it, it exploded, taking out the three ships that were chasing Shuttle Second."
"Pow! Boom!" the little boy shouted in excitement, convincing Neelix, for one, of the common origin of humanoidkind. He sounded just like Tom Paris playing Captain Proton.
"What's your name?" Neelix asked the boy.
"I'm not a sir, Toomin; I'm just the cook," Neelix said humbly.
He turned back to his audience. "The shuttlebay doors of a Periti mothership were opening. Shuttle Third fired on Shuttle Prime again, and Shuttle Prime 'lost' its shields. Commander Chakotay hailed the Periti again to inform them he'd lost shields and attitude thrusters."
"In the meantime, Shuttle Second was being chased around the moon by five Periti ships. From Shuttle Third, Ayala fired on several Periti ships which were trying to shield the unfortunate 'Horta'. Suddenly, Lieutenant Paris materialized" - more shimmering motions from the narrator illustrated the unfamiliar concept - "aboard Shuttle Third."
"Ayala asked him where Chakotay was. Paris answered, 'He's arming the tricobalt device. We couldn't beam out simultaneously because of the interference.' Ayala looked worried, but just told him to help Inna fix the shields."
"So Talbid was at the helm, Ayala was at tactical, Tom, Inna and Icheb were crowded around the smoking shield generator, and I was in the kitchen, trying to keep out of the way - but not a one of us was breathing as Shuttle Prime crept towards the shuttlebay and the Commander still hadn't beamed over."
Yearning for the large excitement that the coming years would yield,
Eager-hearted as a boy when first he leaves his father's field,
Neelix was well into his dramatic pause when Toomin asked, "What's a tricobalt device?"
"It's a very powerful kind of bomb we brought from the Alpha Quadrant. But for all the Periti knew, it was just a Horta stardrive with an odd energy signature."
Neelix drew out his interrupted dramatic pause until Toomin was about to ask another question; then he shouted "Boom!"
"Shuttle Prime exploded inside the Periti mothership, blowing it apart and taking out several nearby ships. Shuttle Third was sent tumbling end-over-end by the shock wave. When Talbid got the inertial dampeners back on-line, we all stood up and brushed ourselves off, and there was Commander Chakotay in the midst of us. He had beamed over at the last possible moment - but then, he's known for that."
"He's a Maquis," Toomin said reverently.
Something in the back of Neelix's mind told him Captain Janeway wouldn't approve of the Maquis stories he'd been telling ever since he'd become aware of the Leigi's fascination with those intrepid colonists. He changed the subject quickly, as though he could feel her death glare all the way across the sector.
"Shuttle Second, on the other side of the moon, was shielded from the core breach. We had lost sensors, but I watched out the viewport as Shuttle Second came around the moon again. It seemed to have been damaged; it was sinking to the surface of the barren moon. I lost sight of the shuttle for a moment, then it rose again and headed off, fleeing from the Periti pursuers. When Shuttle Second was almost out of sight, it went to warp."
"With the mothership gone, we were now inside the blockade lines. The Periti around us began firing on us again once they'd recovered from the blast. That, however, was exactly what we wanted. Lieutenant Paris relieved Talbid at the helm - he's an expert at crashing shuttles - and faked a complete loss of power. We were close to Leigus Prime, so we began to plunge through the stratosphere like a meteor."
"When the heat became unbearable, Ayala ejected a small bomb for effect and engaged the Periti cloaking device. To all watchers, we appeared to have burned up in the atmosphere of Leigus Prime. Tom pulled up on the controls and glided to a safe landing here in the Western Desert."
"Excuse me, Mr. Neelix."
"If Shuttle Second's warp core exploded, how did they go to warp afterwards?"
Neelix's face fell. If Icheb hadn't been Borg, the sight of the distraught Talaxian would have brought tears to his eyes.
Icheb answered for the stunned narrator. "You're right, Toomin; it was a different Leigan ship that drew off the Periti forces following Shuttle Second. Our shuttle is safe on the moon. Commander Chakotay will look for them when we are through with our business here on Leigus Prime." Speaking of which, Icheb turned his attention back to his task of adapting nanoprobes.
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder-storm;
The Western Desert was usually uninhabited, but many families with small children were now camped out on its dark sands, hoping to catch a little more sunlight than they would in northern climes. Icheb thought the gain was not worth the effort of camping out under the now brown sky, but then Icheb was never a worried parent watching his children weaken daily for want of sunlight.
Chakotay had commandeered a land transport - a sort of hovercar - and set off for the continental capital with Talbid, Ayala and the bio-stasis chamber the EMH had filled with nanoprobes. Although the officials on Leigus Fifteenth had given them permission to release the nanoprobes on the unsuspecting populace of Leigus Prime, Chakotay insisted on consulting the locals first. He would be the last person to force Borg technology on the unwilling.
Tom and Inna were back at the shuttle, still trying to repair the shield generator and a few other components which had melted during the unusual landing maneuver. Neelix and Icheb had gone out among the campers, ostensibly to distribute nanoprobes to the scattered colonists, but Neelix was quick to perceive the Leigi's need for a morale officer in the depressing darkness under the dusty sky.
Soon stories of the Maquis, Voyager's adventures in the Delta Quadrant, and Chakotay's current expedition to Leigus Prime were spreading faster than the nanoprobes. The Commander was surprised to find that their fame had preceded them even to the shores of the Eastern Sea, and to hear himself cheered as Chakotay of the Maquis and the Savior of Leigus Prime. When he returned to their base in the Western Desert for more nanoprobes, he gave Neelix a Janeway-class skunk eye.
Again they were behind schedule. They had planned to travel around Leigus Prime on Shuttle Third; instead it was up on blocks. Later, Chakotay was reluctant to take Icheb away before he was sure everyone had been treated successfully. At least Ayala had returned from the polar mines with a few nice chunks of dilithium which might make the Captain forgive the delay, and overlook her XO's new folk-hero status. He had a funny feeling, though, that she had already taken matters into her own hands.
Comrades, leave me here a little, while as yet 'tis early morn:
Leave me here, and when you want me, sound upon the bugle-horn.
Janeway, Torres, Seven and Ovin crossed the distance to Leigus Prime in Ovin's shuttlecraft. The Captain would have preferred travelling in one of her own, but Tuvok had cautioned against it, saying they couldn't be sure what Chakotay had said or done to the Periti with the Delta Flyer before its presumed demise. Besides, the Leigi still needed help from Voyager's shuttles to travel through the poisoned atmosphere of Leigus Fifteenth.
For the first time in two months, the Captain had nothing to do. She was bored, B'Elanna was depressed, Ovin was solemn and Seven was efficient as usual. They made for strange company on the long trip to Leigus Prime.
It was hard for Janeway to believe that her first officer had survived the simultaneous destruction of three shuttlecraft; it was correspondingly easy for her to dream of everything that had never been and now could never be between them. Judging by the look on Torres' face, the Klingon's thoughts were also filled with children who could never be born, houses that would not now be built, and sunsets that had somehow been missed.
They had a harebrained scheme of drifting into orbit around the moon like a derelict, but Janeway hoped instead to find at least one of the missing shuttles along the return flight path Chakotay had left them. So the shuttle hung back from the Leigus Prime system once they reached it, ostensibly to monitor Periti activity.
After two days of surveillance, B'Elanna announced excitedly, "There's a Leigan ship decloaking ahead of us."
"Hail them," Janeway ordered, but the other ship hailed them first.
"Greetings from Leigus Prime. Please identify yourselves," a familiar voice requested, and an image of Tom Paris slowly came into focus on the viewscreen.
"Where have you been, Helmboy?" B'Elanna asked gruffly, angry at him for having feigned death.
A voice from beyond the viewscreen said something, and Tom repeated, "Request permission to dock, B'E." The Captain began to breathe; she hadn't realized she had been holding her breath until she heard that other voice.
All Leigan vessels were equipped with airlocks and docking ports - without transporter technology, they were the only way to move humanoids from ship to ship in space. Tom and B'Elanna blocked (and steamed up) the airlock for a few moments with their reunion, but the crowd behind Tom soon pushed their way into the other shuttle. Chakotay hung back, and signaled to Janeway to join him in the privacy of Shuttle Third.
"It's good to see you again," he said. It was a mild enough greeting, but then he hadn't thought her dead.
She, on the other hand, was hard-pressed to retain a captainly demeanor as she responded, "It's good to see you, too." She steeled herself with levity; "We heard you'd crashed all three shuttles."
He replied in kind. "Rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated."
"Where are the others?"
"Ken, Jenny and three of the Leigi are still on the moon, having a look around. They volunteered to remain together on the downed shuttle, since we didn't have room for them all. We dropped them some supplies. I knew you'd want to come back, anyway - though I didn't think it would be quite so soon." He grinned.
"Did you get the dilithium?" she asked.
The Commander opened a storage compartment in the back of Shuttle Third, saying "Take a look." Janeway reached in to touch the precious cargo.
"And the Leigi?"
"Chock full of nanoprobes and recovering nicely." He paused for a moment, then asked, "How did you know about our fireworks with the Periti?"
"When Dalby's shuttle went down on the moon, another took off. He made for Leigus Eighth, but they sent him along to Voyager to tell us his story. We seem to have become the nerve center of the Leigus Union."
"So you decided to come here and get yourselves killed, too?" He looked at her oddly for just a moment, then sat down on one of the benches and offered her the seat beside him. "So what now? I assume you still want to take a look at the moon."
"Of course," she replied, "but we should get this dilithium back to Voyager."
Shuttle Third ended up even more crowded, though Talbid and Inna had remained behind on Leigus Prime. Neelix, Ayala and Icheb were dispatched to Voyager on the newly-christened Shuttle Fourth, leaving Janeway, Chakotay, Torres, Paris, Seven and Ovin on Shuttle Third. All of Shuttle Fourth's environmental suits and most of their supplies were also transferred to Shuttle Third in exchange for the dilithium and recorded messages from the inhabitants of Leigus Prime.
Cloaked again, Shuttle Third landed gently beside Shuttle Second on the far side of the moon. The combined forces of seven humans and four Leigi continued the systematic investigation of the planetoid begun months before by Ovin and his colleagues.
After a week of slogging through the cosmic dust with which the moon was covered, they had completed a map of the caves and tunnels which ran between the craters on certain areas of the moon's surface. Fortunately, none of them were too near the two automated Periti installations, which seemed to be part of the jamming system Chakotay had temporarily disrupted when he'd blown up the Periti mothership.
It was Jenny who made the discovery. The others were making and testing new sensor modifications and wondering what to look for that had never been looked for in Leigus Prime's 50,000 year history. Jenny, on the other hand, was leaning over Ken's shoulder, ostensibly looking at the new map displayed on Shuttle Third's tactical console. She was more interested in whispering Leigan endearments in his ear than in the map, but somehow, by only half-looking at the image, she saw a pattern the others hadn't noticed.
"Hold on," she said, still speaking in Leigan, as he moved to adjust the readout. "I see something."
Ken quickly pulled his hand away and peered at the screen. To him it looked like the same jumble of volcanic tunnels ostensibly formed by cooling rock when the moon was young. "K'naa?" he asked - the Leigan for "What is it?"
"There's a circle there," Jenny answered, pointing at a corner of the display. Indeed, there was a dark, regular disk about three kilometers across, formed by the absence of tunnels.
"It must be the compression ring of a new crater," Ken said, switching back to Standard for the technical vocabulary. He pulled up the standard Leigan topographical map of the moon, but there was no crater over Jenny's circle.
"Captain, Commander, take a look at this." Ken showed Jenny's discovery to their superior officers.
"Is there anything unusual about the location?" the Captain asked.
Ken examined the readout and cross-referenced the standard Leigan databanks. "Yes," he finally answered, "its latitude is 31.3 degress south of the equator, the same as the Tropic of Capricorn of Leigus Prime."
"I'd say that sounds artificial," Chakotay commented.
Janeway glanced around the cramped interior of Shuttle Third. Seven was under the sensor console making experimental adjustments. The main viewscreen showed Tom and B'Elanna outside, balanced on the rim of a crater, testing similar modifications of their tricorders. Ovin was asleep in the back. She knew the other three Leigi were enjoying a dinner of short rations aboard the other shuttle.
The Captain began to give orders. "Hail Shuttle Second; tell them where we're going and that we'll check in in twelve hours. Call Tom and B'Elanna in, but have them stay suited up. As soon as they're aboard, we'll take off."
Here about the beach I wander'd, nourishing a youth sublime
With the fairy tales of science, and the long result of Time;
Shuttle Third settled invisibly into a crater near Jenny's circle. Tom and B'Elanna, Janeway and Chakotay, and Ovin and Seven went out in pairs, while Ken and Jenny held down the fort and checked the map for any other unusual features.
The three teams prowled around the caverns for two hours, gradually making their way to the edge of the circle. Most of their scans had been taken from the shuttlecraft or, when the rock was too thick overhead, from just inside the mouths of tunnels and caverns. Now they were deeper into the cave system than any of them, excepting Ovin, had been before. Even the space dust was thin on the ground this far in.
Kathryn Janeway wondered, afterwards, why the tunnel opened up before her and Chakotay, rather than one of the other teams. Had the moon known, by some subtle science conceived in a distant galaxy, exactly how far she was from her native Indiana? Did it know precisely how many years - the last seven being just the tip of the iceberg - she had spent in subspace, crossing vast distances at warp speed? Or did it choose her and Chakotay simply because they were the oldest?
Whatever the reason, when she reached out towards the cave wall, she touched only air. The stone of Jenny's dark circle dissolved before her very eyes, and the space dust around her ankles drifted slowly into a new tunnel. According to the tricorder, the tunnel before them was perfectly round, like some massive drainpipe rather than the natural formations they had seen everywhere else on the moon. The new path curved out of sight to the right.
"It seems to spiral in towards the center, and slightly downward as well," Chakotay said, eyes still fixed on the tricorder.
The Captain hailed the other two away teams. "B'Elanna, Seven, do you have a fix on our location?" They replied in the affirmative. "We've found something. When you get here, follow us in."
The reckless redhead strode down the new tunnel, leaving Chakotay to follow in her wake. "I'm reading an atmosphere, Captain," he said as he caught up to her. "It's thin, but the concentration of oxygen is increasing as we go."
To conserve the environmental suits' oxygen supplies, the Captain and Commander took off their helmets and gloves once the atmosphere became breathable. Chakotay convinced her to sit down on the floor of the curved corridor for a picnic of short rations while they waited for the other two teams to catch up. She commandeered his tricorder and studied the readout - the tunnel appeared to spiral around three times, ending in a large circular chamber in the exact center of the circle.
"Definitely artificial," she said, smiling up at him and reaching for a ration cube.
What is that which I should turn to, lighting upon days like these?
Every door is barr'd with gold, and opens but to golden keys.
Seven and Ovin were the first to catch up with the Captain and Commander and join in their impromptu picnic. Tom and B'Elanna were still in communications range of the shuttle and reported the Captain's discovery before proceeding to the picnic site. Soon the six explorers picked up their helmets and continued down the tunnel, but were stopped by a word from Torres half a kilometer from their goal.
"We're being scanned, Captain," B'Elanna reported.
The Captain, however, was more interested in the old man who had suddenly appeared before them, blocking the tunnel.
"My children, welcome to Toleighanomir," he said.
"He appears to be some sort of hologram, Captain," B'Elanna said, sotto voce.
"Have you travelled the galaxy, my children? Have you colonized the uninhabited worlds? Have you filled them with your kind?" the hologram asked theatrically.
Ovin looked down sheepishly, realizing he was not much of a colonizer by his ancestor's standards. But a light, a dangerous light, shone in Janeway's eyes as she answered, "I have been to the four quadrants of the galaxy. I have seen a thousand suns rise over inhabited worlds - the galaxy is filled with life, humanoid life."
"Only you, my daughter?"
Chakotay spoke up. "I have seen the four corners of the galaxy, and the countless living things that dwell in it." He turned to B'Elanna, who had been with him on that little jaunt to the Gamma Quadrant.
She told the hologram reluctantly, "I, too, have been to the four quadrants."
And I passed through all points of the universe, once, Tom thought, but he didn't want to get involved. That look in the Captain's eye spelled trouble, with a capital T.
"Show me," the hologram demanded, as a holographic map of the Milky Way appeared between it and the flesh-and-blood humanoids.
B'Elanna pulled up a corresponding star chart on her tricorder and held it up for Janeway. With a finger, Janeway drew an imaginary X through the holographic galaxy, then pointed to one of the divisions: "This is the Alpha Quadrant, our home. Earth is here," she said, pointing, then drawing an imaginary circle, "in the United Federation of Planets."
"I come from Dorvan V," Chakotay said, pointing to his home near the galactic rim, "and here is Bajor, the Demilitarized Zone, and Ferenginar." His hand moved to another portion of the map. "I was on patrol once in the Romulan-Federation Neutral Zone, in the Beta Quadrant."
"The Klingon Empire is also in the Beta Quadrant," B'Elanna said, marking out another circle. "And here, in the Gamma Quadrant, is the Dosi homeworld, which Chakotay and I visited on a ... supply mission."
A smuggling run, the Captain realized. Janeway pointed to another Gamma Quadrant star, saying "I visited New Bajor once, on a diplomatic tour. And here," she added ruefully, "is the Delta Quadrant. We first arrived at the Ocampa homeworld, and have travelled 45,000 lightyears through the quadrant to the Leigus Union." Her finger cut a long swath across the Delta Quadrant, ending in a wide circle to indicate the vast expanse of Leigan space.
"Then you are welcome, my children, to continue the mission of Toleighanomir." Janeway, Chakotay and B'Elanna were engulfed in white light. Tom expected them to dematerialize - off to chat on the moon's bridge with their photonic host - but when the light faded they were still there. Only the preachy hologram had disappeared.
"Captain," B'Elanna called out, looking down at her right hand in wonder.
The Captain stepped over to gaze at her chief engineer's outstretched forearm. Chakotay did not move; instead, he opened his own hand cautiously. In the center of his palm was a gold imprint of the spiral disk of the galaxy.
Tom waved his tricorder over B'Elanna's hand, but had little to report. "I'm detecting an increased level of gold in your system. If there are any other changes, they're undetectable short of a full medical exam," the medic concluded, then wondered absently, "What do you suppose it's for?"
The Captain didn't answer immediately. She almost ran down the last section of tunnel and into the room at its end. As the others caught up, they found her walking over to the far wall, muttering "A key - it must be the key."
Tom turned to Ovin and asked, "What does Toleighanomir mean, exactly?"
"It is Old High Leigan for two thousand, three hundred and forty-seventh."
The section of the wall Janeway approached bore a triangular figure not unlike the crest of the Klingon Empire, but in gold. At the top of the triangle was a spiral-like symbol, in the bottom left corner a star and at the bottom right a circle.
The Captain held out her hand, seeming to expect a response from the ancient stone walls. None was forthcoming as the others gathered around the golden mystery.
Tom noted her expression - it wasn't the familiar 'you've messed with the wrong woman this time' look, nor the old reliable 'there's coffee in that nebula' look (recently supplanted by the 'let's steal that moon' look), but a wide-eyed gaze of scientific curiosity. He sighed. In the end, that look always got them into just as much trouble as the others.
She asked Ovin whether he recognized the symbols.
"Yes. They represent the ancient Trivium - the three spheres of life. The helix represents humanoidkind."
"DNA," the Captain realized aloud.
Ovin nodded. "The star represents science - cosmology being the queen of the sciences. The wheel represents technology. Together, they symbolize unity, humanoid knowledge..."
"I don't suppose anything there symbolizes 'press here to open'?" Tom quipped.
"If there's a door here, it's not showing up on my scans," B'Elanna added.
"Is it a test?" Seven wondered aloud.
"I don't think so, Seven," the Captain answered. "Toleighanomir seems to have approved us already. Maybe it's just the doorbell."
"I assume it's supposed to be obvious, even to the old man's most distant descendants," Chakotay commented. It seemed obvious to him; he covered the helix with his newly augmented hand. Janeway gave him the skunk eye - Tom wasn't sure what for - then placed a hand on the star. B'Elanna followed suit, touching the circle.
It was the hiss of air, rather than the silent sealing of the doorway, which alerted them to their success.
"Are we moving?" the Captain asked.
Seven consulted her tricorder. "We have moved twenty kilometers toward the center of the moon, but we seem to have stopped now."
"We should tell it where we want to go," Chakotay opined.
"How?" B'Elanna asked.
In reply, the Commander lifted his hand from the wall, took the Captain's wrist and placed her hand over B'Elanna's, with his own on top. "Engineering," he said.
Smooth, very smooth, Tom reflected. You'd think he would get somewhere with moves like that.
"We're moving again, Captain," Seven reported, "North, 5000 kilometers per hour."
"This is some turbolift," Tom commented to no one in particular. The rest were silent. Ten minutes ticked slowly by.
B'Elanna forgot Chakotay, the wall and its symbols as she contemplated the engines of this ship - a ship she hadn't quite believed in until just a few minutes before - calculating the forces necessary to get a moon to warp speeds and wondering what physical principle moved it across the endless void between galaxies.
Janeway, on the other hand, spent her ten minutes glaring at her first officer; he'd responded with a series of looks Tom interpreted thus:
Are you glaring at me? Little old me? I'm entirely innocent here, just trying to press the turbolift buttons.
Tom couldn't see her answering glare, but he watched Chakotay's eyes flash in reply:
Press *your* buttons, you say? Why, I'd never, Captain! What do you mean, remove that hand? Don't tell me you don't like being pawed on the slightest pretense. If you can't take it, then don't dish it out.
Tom was impressed. She'd never let him get a word in edgewise, but there was no protocol against looks. He was glad he couldn't see the Captain's face, or be caught in her basilisk glare, from this angle.
At the end of those ten very long minutes, Seven updated them: "We're decelerating," and then, "We've stopped." Chakotay released the Captain's hand.
B'Elanna's hand was still on the wall when it split into three segments, which quickly receded into the surrounding rock, or alloy, or green cheese, whatever it was this moon was made of. They stepped out of the odd turbolift onto a causeway suspended across a brightly lit room the size of a Kazon mothership. Machinery lined the walls, peered up from the depths below them, and hung suspended overhead.
Yet I doubt not thro' the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widen'd with the process of the suns.
"Main engineering, I presume," Tom announced. Dazzled, the landing party walked slowly along the catwalk, until it widened into a circular platform ringed with plexiglas panels. In the center of the platform stood a single console, bearing the now familiar triangle of the Trivium.
They gathered around the console. "Well?" the Captain asked her first officer, whose background in anthropology seemed to be coming in quite handy now.
"I believe the star would be the most accessible," he answered, gesturing toward it. When Janeway touched the symbol, the panels sprang to life. Of the many computer readouts now displayed around them, the blazing disk of the sun caught the Captain's eye. It filled the upper portion of one viewscreen, while various smaller images of the sun were displayed at eye-level and below. On a nearby screen, the solar system was featured prominently, with Leigus Prime and its companion planets in position around that golden sun.
The sun remained a distinguishing shade of gold across the other screens. One panel displayed the sector, another showed about a third of the galaxy. Tom pointed to a screen near him, saying "The Milky Way," and waved at a bank of displays beside it. "I think all of these are beyond the galactic scale."
"Abell 426," Seven identified a saddle-shaped mass at the corner of one of those displays. "The origin point."
Peachy, Janeway thought - now her best Borg had gone native too. Jenny Delaney was one thing, but she'd thought Seven was a little more...logical. She removed her hand from the central console. The images remained, and she walked over to the viewscreen that showed the local solar system. Chakotay followed her and quietly urged, "Go for the intuitive."
The Captain raised her hand towards the view of the system, ignoring the smaller images below in which the planets were racing about their sun in various formations and speeds. With a finger she drew a circle around Leigus Prime and its ersatz moon.
The display before her did not change, but the others did. Four screens to the right displayed Leigus Prime, including various smaller multicolored images of the planet. She thought perhaps the smaller pictures represented plant life or mineral deposits. One of the larger ones was clearly a topographical map of the planet.
"Captain," Seven said when the changing viewscreens interrupted her investigations, "my analysis of the starchart of our galaxy indicates that it was made at least 40,000 years ago. Although the stars were shown in their current positions, the chart appears to be based on projections, rather than current data."
"How can you tell?" Tom asked.
"Certain artificial cosmic events are not reflected in the chart. For instance, according to the legends of Species 1340, the star of their original home system was completely destroyed by a chain reaction set off accidentally by their scientists. The Borg did not believe this legend, but that star is depicted here in exactly the position Species 1340 believed it once occupied. The nebula which replaced it is absent. I have found four other such anomalies, placing the date of the starchart at least 40,000 years ago."
Tom shivered. He wished he hadn't asked.
"Good work, Seven, but I think we need to see about the engines." The Captain turned toward the console, but Chakotay held her back.
"B'Elanna," he said, "touch the wheel." When she did, the screens flashed up an entirely new montage. The solar system disappeared from the screen before which the Captain and Commander still stood, and was replaced by a diagram of - presumably - the engine room in which they were now gathered. The three symbols, helix, star and wheel, floated in the center of the graphic, where the catwalk should have been.
The screens to the Captain's right showed various portions of the cavernous room - several engines, a diagram of the catwalk system, and other schematics resembling circuit diagrams or power grids. To the left, several screens displayed the moon as a whole. The Captain was drawn to a blueprint of its structure. The moon was hollow, as they'd expected, and its crust seemed to be reinforced with a skeleton shaped like a geodesic dome. The forces it was subjected to must be massive, she reflected. At this scale, the small hollow in the moon's crust which was Engineering was obscured by the three golden symbols. What particularly intrigued her was a door, and behind it an airlock big enough to hold several Kazon motherships. Plenty of room for Voyager, Janeway thought.
"Captain," Tom said from his position in front of another screen, "I think these are the shuttles and the Periti installations." They shone brightly against the surface of the moon, despite the Periti cloaking device still running on Shuttle Third.
"Captain," B'Elanna called from across the circular platform.
"Don't touch anything," Chakotay warned her as they approached the screen which so fascinated Torres and Seven of Nine.
"It's a warp field," B'Elanna said of the familiar glowing torus displayed before them.
"I believe the smaller pictures below it are a time-lapse sequence," Seven added. The first was dark, and the rest showed the warp field in various stages of formation. "According to my calculations, the warp field formed when Lieutenant Torres touched the console. Tricorder scans corroborate this theory."
"I see what you mean about not touching anything," the Captain remarked to Chakotay. Turning back to the two women, she asked "Are we moving?"
"My tricorder cannot penetrate the moon's crust," Seven answered.
Chakotay reassured them, "I don't think B'Elanna can set a course without your help, Captain, and we may not have helm control unless I do...something."
"Mmm?" the Captain egged him on, touching his arm.
"Imagine the difficulty of communicating with your very distant descendants," Chakotay began to explain. "You don't know what they'll look like, how they'll act, even whether they'll use spoken language - they might use telepathy, sign language, or some other means of communication. And you don't want to just say 'Hi, how have you been? Seen the galaxy?' You want to leave them a valuable piece of technology the size of Pluto, and you don't want them to break it trying to use it."
"But it used the Universal Translator," Tom interrupted.
"No, *we* used the Universal Translator. Besides, you can't fly a starship in universal translation. When the Captain says 'engage', does she mean 'go to warp' or 'fire all phasers'? A picture, in this case, is worth a thousand words."
"But how would they know what our visual range was? What if we saw in infrared?"
"I suspect the hologram tested our visual acuity as well as our travel experience," Chakotay answered Tom.
"They assumed we would remember the Trivium," Ovin commented.
"It wasn't necessary that we remember it, only understand it. Even if our concepts had changed enormously, we would have understood once the wheel started the warp drive and the star produced starcharts. It's a completely intuitive computer interface."
"It's a Mac," Tom commented.
"Excuse me, Mr. Paris?" the Captain prompted him.
"The Macintosh was a very early Terran computer designed so that people who had never seen a computer before in their lives could still use it," Tom elaborated. "It was known for its intuitive, easy-to-operate interface. They called it 'user-friendly'."
"Ah," Janeway acknowledged the superfluous information, and turned back to Chakotay. "Commander, what were you saying about laying in a course?"
"It's not a matter simply of technology, or of cosmology, but a combination of the two - the ship's power and maneuverability, the local gravitational forces, the long-range destination... Then starting on that course is neither scientific nor mechanical, but an act of will - the humanoid impulse."
"This is pure speculation," Seven complained.
"We haven't much else to go on right now," the Captain answered her. She decided to try an experiment. "Seven, could you touch the star on the console?"
The former drone complied, but nothing happened. The Captain returned to the console and reached out to the uncooperative star. The screens switched back to the former display of cosmological data. Nodding towards the map of the sector, she asked Seven to point to Leigus Fifteenth.
Though no other viewscreen changed, the one which Seven had touched altered slightly. The sector map remained on the top half of the screen, while the bottom half displayed Leigus Fifteenth's sun and the four planets of that now distant system. Seven touched the planet itself, and the small scene changed to a fuzzy visual of the blue-purple erstwhile paradise. Curious, the ex-Borg zoomed in on the main land-mass of the planet, where the Periti had caused the most damage.
"Captain," she reported, "this is a current scan of Leigus Fifteenth. Here is the new crater."
B'Elanna's eyes sparkled fiercely. Tom would have preferred that greedy look to be directed to its usual object, himself, rather than the long-range scanners of this treasure-trove of alien - he corrected himself - ancestral technology.
"It would seem," the Captain theorized at the conclusion of her experiment, that these marks on our hands are keys to more than just the turbolift.
"A sensible precaution with humanoids," Seven opined. "There could be no guarantee that those accompanying you would share your goals for the ship. They might wish to destroy it, or perhaps just copy its advanced technology and leave it as they found it."
"Isn't that what we came here to do?" Tom asked.
"Perhaps, but the selection process the hologram used was designed to combat such tendencies."
"They assumed that you," Seven addressed the hologram's selected trio, "or rather, any humanoids who had managed to see as much of the galaxy as you have, could not resist the opportunity to see another."
Did she have to be so blunt? Tom thought ruefully. He'd been hoping to die a novel and gruesome death in his own galaxy, at least. This moon really was made of green cheese - it was the bait of an ancient mousetrap.
Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and I linger on the shore,
And the individual withers, and the world is more and more.
"Let's concentrate on getting to Earth for the moment," the Captain said. Standing back from the console, she added, "Commander, I believe it's your turn."
He placed his hand over the helix and watched the screens flicker once more. The display he'd come to think of as the main one changed from Leigus Prime's flaming sun to an image of themselves, standing on this very platform. The detailed display below showed humanoid figures, a man and two women. Beside each was a couple of anatomical renditions, a long double helix flowing across the screen, and a symbol - the spiral by the man, the star beside one woman, and the wheel alongside the somewhat different biological readings of the other woman.
"It sampled our DNA," B'Elanna protested.
"It needed to in order to make these marks," Chakotay said, taking his palm off the console and showing the golden brand to no one in particular.
Tom reported from another screen that Seven's implants had also been scanned and displayed. Seven was more interested in the picture of Leigus Fifteenth before her. Now, rather than seas and craters, the screen showed population centers.
B'Elanna stared in fascination at a blueprint of the inner surface of the moon - there were no life signs, but there was enough housing for hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of people.
Chakotay beckoned to the Captain. "Another experiment, Kathryn?" he suggested. In her fascination with Toleighanomir, she seemed not to notice his lapse of protocol.
Tom did, though, and he wondered where Chakotay was going with it. Tom had put his pips back on when Janeway had shown up, but Chakotay still held himself like the Maquis captain who had just saved the population of Leigus Prime. Now that the pilot thought about it, he realized that the change in Chakotay went back further than this mission, back to that fateful day on Voyager's bridge when everything was exploding around them. Of course Tom himself had missed a bit while he was unconscious, but Mitchell, Jones and a few other crewmen had told intriguing tales of Chakotay's desperate search for the Captain. Afterwards Janeway had sequestered herself in Engineering, leaving the Commander to look out the viewscreen on the shattered remains of Leigus Fifteenth and to deal with the Leigan government. Now the Commander's stance seemed to say that this was his ship, and that she was his...science officer, Tom concluded.
The Captain - of Voyager, Tom now felt it necessary to qualify his thoughts - had already walked up to the main viewscreen and was now reaching out to the small image of Chakotay. The screen to her right became a star field, the disk of the galaxy divided into its familiar quadrants with a hastily-drawn blue X. Certain stars were marked in gold.
Janeway turned towards her first officer as she observed, "These are the places you told the hologram you'd visited - Dorvan, Bajor, Ferenginar, the Dosi homeworld, half the Delta Quadrant. B'Elanna, try it."
Torres tore herself away from her study of the moon's innards. "What should I do?"
"On the screen, B'Elanna," he clarified.
When she did, the screen to her left displayed a larger image of Voyager's first officer, with his recently-branded palm held up, flanked by the symbols of the galaxy and the helix. A medical diagram seemed to show details of this new addition to his hand. A short movie played in the corner of the screen - apparently the moon's final approach to Leigus Prime, 50,000 years before. Most mystifying was an image of the moon's hollow interior, this time centered around a platform overlooking the inner surface from a mountaintop. On the platform was a triangular console like the one here in Engineering.
Seven seemed to understand. "If that is the bridge, where is Astrometrics?" she asked. Leave it to a Borg to identify herself with the third vital function of the ship, Tom reflected. No one answered her question.
Or to burst all links of habit--there to wander far away,
On from island unto island at the gateways of the day.
The Captain broke the silence. "Seven, see if you can find us a table and chairs on that map of Engineering. We need to talk."
Seven's adaptable fingers flew across the viewscreen. Soon she announced, "I've found something, Captain. Follow me." The Borg strode purposefully down another catwalk, opposite the one which had led them to the platform. Three and a half levels down and 400 meters further into the cavern that was Engineering, Seven halted at another platform. This one was shaped like the bottom half of a sphere, with a circular bench running along its concave walls. There was a small, triangular console in the bottom center of this odd conference room - they ignored it for the time being.
Most of them were still in awe of the moon, but not Voyager's intrepid Captain. She began the conference thus:
"We've found the warp drive and the controls. I suspect we can move this ship. The only question is how."
"And whither," Chakotay added.
"It's not actually our moon. Maybe we should leave it where it is," Tom suggested. He didn't expect any takers, though.
Ovin responded, "We will honor the choice of our ancestors." Chakotay acknowledged the Leigan's generosity with a respectful nod. "But moving the moon," Ovin continued, as though petitioning a new and unknown monarch, "would enrage our enemies into attacking it, or at least the planet beneath it."
"We have not yet found the weapons systems," Seven observed. "We would be unable to counterattack."
"I don't think we will find any weapons aboard," Chakotay replied. "The crust is probably defense enough, considering it's strong enough to withstand the stresses of moving a planet at warp speed."
"Speaking of which, we also haven't found the faster-than-warp drive," Torres mentioned.
"The warp drive will be enough to reach Leigus Fifteenth," Chakotay answered. "That planet needs to be evacuated, and this moon is the ship for the job."
"One problem at a time, people," Janeway reined them in. "If the Periti find us absconding with the moon, they will attack, or worse yet, follow us to Leigus Fifteenth. Ideas?"
"A ruse," Tom suggested.
"I'm listening, Mr. Paris."
"We go to warp under cover of an ... illusion that convinces the Periti that the moon has been destroyed."
"It's not easy to destroy a moon," Torres protested.
"The Klingons did it once," Tom replied.
"There was a huge mining facility on Praxis," B'Elanna countered. "There's nothing here to blow up."
"There are the Periti surveillance installations," Chakotay reminded her.
Torres rephrased her objection: "There's nothing on the surface that could cause so large an explosion. It would have to be a terrorist act, and a rather excessive one at that."
"A very excessive one. The Leigi wouldn't blow up their own moon," the Captain added.
"How about if we just derail it? Nudge it out of orbit and into the sun?" Tom suggested, wondering if he was signing up to die a novel, gruesome death in *this* galaxy after all.
"If we go to warp in the sun's corona, it will mask our warp signature," B'Elanna reflected.
"And cause a convincing solar storm," the Captain added. "The shuttles can't survive a trip through the sun's corona, though. Someone will have to fly them back."
Tom volunteered. "I can set the charges and make a break for it in Shuttle Third."
"Once the installations were destroyed," Chakotay added, "Shuttle Second could run the blockade and land on Leigus Prime. We should send someone to reassure them that the moon won't really be harmed."
Seven, who had been making rapid stabs at her tricorder, now looked up and said, "It would require a one and a half billion megaton explosion to break the moon out of its orbit. Although we will only be simulating the explosion, the charges must be placed and timed precisely." She prodded the tricorder a few more times, then concluded, "The moon will be in an optimal position in 3.7 days."
"I suggest we take a look around the inner surface and find a place to rest," Chakotay said.
The Captain nodded and said, "Back to the turbolift, then."
Am I mad, that I should cherish that which bears but bitter fruit?
I will pluck it from my bosom, tho' my heart be at the root.
This time, the turbolift responded to Chakotay's touch, without help from Janeway or Torres. Seven provided no progress reports - she was busy analyzing data she'd collected with her tricorder and cortical implant. Everyone else was lost in thought.
The turbolift let them out on a mountainside overlooking a twilit world. Though they'd seen the inner surface on the viewscreens in Engineering, the view still took their their breath away. It could have passed for the green fields and rolling hills of New Earth, except that the horizon rose up instead of down.
Chakotay was the first to start moving again. He led the away team up the mountainside and toward some low buildings. They investigated a few; all were built in the same pattern of a circular corridor around a large central room, with smaller rooms around the perimeter. Janeway claimed one of the small rooms in the last building they checked; she stripped off the rest of her environmental suit and left it in on what looked like the bed. A skylight in the main room let in enough of the twilight for the away team to see their dinner of short rations.
Janeway tried to dismiss the others. "You're looking tired, B'Elanna; you and Tom should turn in." The couple went willingly; they'd been going for eighteen hours straight.
Seven, however, protested: "We should not establish camp without securing the area. Starfleet regulations--"
"You and Ovin may secure the area; just don't keep him up too late. Breakfast is in eight hours." Janeway followed the overactive Borg and her hapless partner out of the building, but stopped on the doorstep to look out upon the half-lit world.
She felt a hand on her shoulder. "Remind you of somewhere?" a voice asked.
"New Earth," she answered. She reached up to her shoulder and put her hand over his. "We were real Leigi then, colonizing a new world."
"Like Adam and Eve."
"You don't seriously believe--"
"--that Adam and Eve were passengers on this ship?" he finished her question, smiling. "Stranger things have happened. Maybe something bit them and they had to be left behind."
She chuckled, and he said softly, "We could be Leigi again."
The twilight and the green hills carried her back to a simpler time, when the responsibility of command had been temporarily lifted from her shoulders. Just a man and a woman and an unpopulated world... She shook herself out of her reverie. Now *I'm* going native, she thought ruefully, and tried to change the subject.
"Funny how it hasn't gotten any brighter or dimmer - do you think it's always like this?"
"Maybe it's waiting for us to decide."
"Decide what?" she asked, a little too sharply.
"Whether it's day or night. We should get some sleep." He slipped his hand out from under hers and disappeared into the building.
She stood in the doorway for quite some time, feeling lost in the maze of possibilities symbolized by this new world. The twilight seemed to grow dimmer after a while, so she turned around and went looking for her bed while there was still light to see by.
Chakotay laid his head upon the pillow to sleep, but instead found himself standing under an alien sky. He suspected that the stars above him were nowhere near the Milky Way. He looked about reflexively for his animal guide to lead him on this, his distant ancestors' version of a vision quest, but he saw only a humanoid figure approaching him. When the man spoke, Chakotay understood, though he knew somehow that the language was far older than Old High Leigan.
"Brother, she will never bear live offspring. She does not even desire to mate, never mind settle down. Your life with her brings you only frustration and grief - why will you not find another?" the figure asked him.
"Brother," Chakotay heard himself answer in the same antique tongue, "you have never seen the light in her eyes as she beholds a new sun rising over a new world. You do not know how she delights in everything, from the smallest plant to the highest mountain, from a minor nebula to a vast galaxy. I cannot leave her."
"But you need earth beneath your feet, not the cold decks of a colony ship."
"It cannot be helped."
"Perhaps it can, brother," the other replied. "I will build you something." The speaker seemed to become lost in thought for a few moments, then said, "The next time you return, it will be ready. Then I also will accompany you two, and see the galaxies and plant new colonies."
Chakotay knew that the offer was unusual, that his 'brother' the builder never left the homeworld - he had always been content to make the ships which roved the galaxies.
As he reflected on his brother's words, the vision changed. He saw Toleighanomir - no, it was not Toleighanomir, it was not the two thousand three hundred and forty-seventh ship, but the first one. It hung, perfectly round and jet black, over the sky of the humanoid homeworld, in geosynchronous orbit over the house of his brother the builder.
"What is it?" she asked him as they made their return approach to the homeworld in the now empty colony ship.
"It seems we have a new moon," Chakotay answered. The woman looked like Kathryn, but she seemed to be at home in this long-vanished scene. "My brother said he was building something new - perhaps that is it."
"But what is it for?"
"What is everything we do for? It is for colonizing, for spreading our species across the barren worlds of the waiting galaxies."
The scene shifted suddenly, to a low house in a green field, on a world where the horizon fell up instead of down. It was his house, and she was there, in his bed, and...
He woke suddenly, though at first he didn't know it. She was still beside him in the bed with only a thin blanket to cover her, and he was similarly attired. He smiled at his dream vision, until he spotted her red and black uniform lying crumpled on the floor.
He looked around the room. All the small rooms were alike, but only her pack and environmental suit were here. There was no sign of his uniform, which he'd removed and folded neatly before going to sleep. This, then, was her room, and she wouldn't be pleased to find him here when she woke up. He didn't pause to wonder how he'd gotten there - he would be on his guard from now on, in any event.
Chakotay eased himself out of the bed, being careful not to wake the flesh-and-blood woman beside him. He walked over to what he now somehow knew was the replicator and produced a new uniform for himself. He looked twice as he donned the undershirt - there was a Maquis captain's bar in place of his usual rank insignia.
He tried to replicate her a fresh uniform, but it came out science blue instead of command red and he quickly disposed of it, not daring to count the pips. He'd had enough of the editorial comments of Toleighanomir for one morning. He tiptoed out her door.
O, I see the crescent promise of my spirit hath not set.
Ancient founts of inspiration well thro' all my fancy yet.
B'Elanna was bouncing with energy that sunny morning. "I had a dream, Captain, or at least I thought it was a dream. Toleighanomir was in its final approach to Leigus Prime, and I was its engineer, as I am now.
"We had seen a fifth of the Delta Quadrant in my lifetime, all on warp drive, but I had a theory about how to restart the space-folding drive, which had been shut down for generations. There were only a thousand souls left on Toleighanomir - we were happy, though, because we had achieved our purpose of seeding the galaxy with humanoidkind. Leigus would be our final colony."
"Did you say 'space-folding drive'?" the Captain asked.
"Yes, Captain. The hull of the moon contains the same elements as the crust of Sikaris, which the Sikarians used to power the trajector that transported Harry 40,000 light years and back. But this one forms a neutrino envelope the size of the moon itself, and has a theoretical range of hundreds of millions of lightyears.
"I wanted to try it, but the other two wanted to settle Leigus and be done with exploration for a few millennia."
"Did you see me or Commander Chakotay in your dream?"
A very odd question for the Captain to ask, Tom thought, and why was Chakotay suddenly so pale?
"No - your counterparts were both old men. I think one was the model for the hologram we encountered."
"Is that all?"
"From the dream, yes, but when I woke up I knew how to find and use the replicators. That's what convinced me it was more than a dream." That, and my pestering you to tell the others, Tom thought to himself, as the Engineer added, "I think I know how to move the moon now."
The Captain seemed pleased, though there was something off in her tone as she asked Chakotay, "Did you dream anything, Commander?"
"Nothing so helpful as B'Elanna's dream. I found out why Toleighanomir, or rather, the first ship like her, was built." He paused.
"Why?" she asked bluntly.
"A man built it for his brother, who was the captain of a colony ship of a more traditional design, and who, for personal reasons, could not give up space exploration, but also wanted to feel the soil beneath his feet and build a home."
The Captain seemed dissatisfied with his response, but changed the subject anyway. "I also had a dream. I was a scientist. I visited countless planets, taking soil samples, analyzing plants. And I looked out a viewscreen into the inky darkness - not the void between stars but the void between galaxies. All the galaxies of Perseus hung before me like jewels on black velvet: spirals, disks, ellipsoids and many stranger shapes. I knew that as long as I lived I would never grow tired of that sight."
And someone was always behind me, she didn't say, though I was so engrossed in the dream worlds that I did not turn to see his face, until... "I also saw Toleighanomir, or another ship like her, before many buildings had been built on the inner surface." Her eyes flickered to Chakotay, who was staring fixedly at the floor. "But I had a house, and the Engineer did. He had built it for his family."
And an eye shall vex thee, looking ancient kindness on thy pain.
Turn thee, turn thee on thy pillow; get thee to thy rest again.
After two days of coaxing basic chemical compounds out of the replicators, B'Elanna and Tom donned their environmental suits and took the turbolift to the outer surface. Combined with the tricobalt device and other explosives from Shuttle Fourth, the chemicals would make a convincing firework show. Tom's instructions were to set off the blast at the precise moment Seven had calculated. One of the Leigi still on the outer surface would accompany him back to Voyager in Shuttle Third, while the other two took Shuttle Second through the gap in the blockade and reassured the populace of Leigus Prime that their moon was in good hands. B'Elanna returned, red-eyed, with Jenny Delaney and Ken Dalby in tow.
A day later - the moon had set its nights and days by their biorhythms, although Seven wasn't regenerating much and Chakotay wasn't sleeping at all - they gathered in Engineering and prepared to move Toleighanomir. B'Elanna and Kathryn had set the course the night before, so that when the explosion went off, the moon would be propelled toward the sun along a slightly curved path. Though at first the moon would move only slightly faster than it had been going in its more traditional orbit, the force of gravity would soon cause it to accelerate into the sun. Still, it would take a couple of weeks to reach their fiery end.
Torres was confident that she could operate the controls. Janeway and Ovin desperately hoped that that was the case, while Seven and Chakotay seemed to trust the Engineer, or the moon itself, to get them where they were going. The Borg, the Maquis and Toleighanomir were survivors.
Seven counted down the seconds as they watched Shuttles Second and Third on one of the screens. Tom and his companion in the cloaked shuttle had finished setting both sets of charges an hour before - a much smaller explosion would suffice to take out the second installation.
Suddenly, B'Elanna swore furiously in Klingon. "He's not cloaked!" she concluded angrily, but, to her credit, she remained in position at the console, ready to adjust the sub-lightspeed drive if anything went amiss.
Seven paused in her countdown to comment, "Lieutenant Paris appears to be drawing off the Periti so that Shuttle Second will not be attacked when they launch." She resumed, "Thirteen seconds, twelve, eleven, ten, nine, eight..."
Chakotay stood by the console, awaiting his cue. "Three, two, one..." He put his hand down on the helix symbol as Seven said "Now!" and a blaze of light filled the viewscreen. Kathryn, B'Elanna and Chakotay searched the forward screen for the two shuttlecraft, while Ovin and Seven concerned themselves with a readout of the moon's new trajectory.
"The course change was successful," Seven reported calmly. Chakotay gingerly lifted his hand from the console and B'Elanna dashed to the viewscreen. She soon found Shuttle Third, still uncloaked, covering Shuttle Second's descent to Leigus Prime. She seemed to have lost the energy to swear - Chakotay put an arm around the distraught wife as she stared up at the display. After several long, agonizing seconds, Shuttle Second landed safely and Shuttle Third engaged the cloaking device. Invisible to the Periti, but still visible to them, Tom turned his shuttle about and began the week-long trip to Leigus Fifteenth.
"See you in a few weeks, Flyboy," B'Elanna whispered.
They passed the time familiarizing themselves with Toleighanomir and casting the occasional wary look at the ever-growing sun. After a week or so, Janeway noticed that Chakotay wasn't sleeping.
"I don't trust it," he answered when she asked him why. "Toleighanomir could change course on its own, if it thinks we're getting too close to the sun. I want to keep an eye on our progress."
"We can keep an eye on it in shifts," she offered. Chakotay nodded; he'd have to not sleep less obviously from now on.
For its part, Toleighanomir behaved itself. Without breaking a sweat, they swung through the sun's corona and into warp. After another week, they dropped out of warp at Leigus Fifteenth and opened the airlock door. Voyager flew in and was drydocked at last. Having extracted the whole story from Tom, Tuvok merely insisted on a full medical exam for the returning officers.
O, the child too clothes the father with a dearness not his due.
Half is thine and half is his: it will be worthy of the two.
The away team gathered in Sickbay. The Doctor told Nurse Paris to check Seven, Ovin, Jenny and Dalby while he himself examined the Triumvirate - Tom's nickname for the three senior officers had already spread around the ship.
The EMH had them sit on the biobeds and turned his attention to the golden implants they'd picked up when first boarding Toleighanomir. He'd noticed something else in his initial scans, something which posed quite a challenge to his bedside manner subroutines. Hopefully his investigation of the implants would shed some light on that mystery as well. Unfortunately, his knowledge of Borg implants - the best in Starfleet, if he said so himself - was of little use with the subtle, wholly organic alterations he now faced.
"Fascinating," he said. "This confirms my theory about the Leigi."
The Captain took his bait, if somewhat reluctantly, asking, "What theory would that be, Doctor?"
"I have noticed several unusual factors in the Leigans' mitochondria. I thought they might be artifacts of genetic engineering, and in particular, that the Leigi's addiction to sunshine might have been artificially induced. Your cells show similar alterations."
"Why make themselves dependent on the sun?" B'Elanna wondered aloud.
"It may not have been meant as a handicap. Perhaps they'd suffered from inbreeding or some inconvenient genetic drift over the thousands of years they travelled in this...moon." The McCoy substrate of his program was stridently protesting all this mucking about with alien technology. It had required several overrides to sublimate his McCoy tendencies into that modest theatrical pause. "The engineered changes may have been purely beneficial, at the time."
"Are you saying we've been genetically engineered?" the Captain asked. She might have been horrified if she hadn't already seen worse as a Borg drone.
"No. Not, at least, in such a full-scale way. The effects seem to have been limited to your mitochondria--"
Torres interrupted with her own medical opinion, sending several of the Doctor's subroutines spinning in surprise. "It's inherited, passed down from the mother to her children. I remember now - in one of my dreams I was disappointed that I'd had no daughters to pass it on."
The Doctor detected no irony in this statement. It would appear that Torres didn't know. How could she? Her condition was medically impossible, after all.
"There do seem to have been some side-effects. You are all much healthier than when I last saw you. Lieutenant Torres' iron levels are up to Klingon norms, despite the lack of blood in her diet. There is not a trace of caffeine in the Captain's system. Nor is there a trace of artificial fertility suppressants in your bodies."
He surveyed his audience. Torres seemed curious, but unmoved. The Captain gazed wistfully into a coffee cup she'd recently emptied. Chakotay, on the other hand, paled visibly. It was time to clear the room. "Medic," the EMH called, "are you finished with the others?"
Tom had just come out of the lab with Jenny Delaney, who was blushing and smiling. "Yes, Doc, they're all fine."
"They are released. Come help me over here." The Doctor waited pointedly until the crowd had dispersed. Then, he chickened out, though most of his personality profiles considered it 'delegating'. "Mr. Paris, please verify the readings on biobed three with a medical tricorder."
The whirr of the tricorder filled the suddenly silent room. "These readings can't be right, Doc," Tom said. He sounded strangely hopeful. The Captain frowned, and the Commander turned a whiter shade of pale. Tom grabbed another instrument from a nearby tray and ran it over B'Elanna's abdomen.
Checking paternity while he's at it, the Doctor noted. He had already identified all parents, and would have evicted Tom with the others had he not been one of them.
"What are you grinning at, Tom?" Torres growled. Why isn't that Klingon in restraints? the Doctor's McCoy subroutine complained idly.
"B'E, hon, you're pregnant," Tom gushed. Chakotay almost fainted. The new mother, however, laughed in Tom's face.
"You know that's not possible without..." Her voice suddenly trailed off, along with her laughter.
"...medical intervention, on account of your unique physiology," the Doctor completed her sentence. "Your implant, however, appears to be capable of such delicate operations." McCoy urged the Doctor to run for his life, but B'Elanna remained perfectly still and uncharacteristically non-violent. So he turned to face the other dangerous pregnant woman.
"Captain..." he said suggestively.
"What is it, Doctor?" she asked unsuspectingly.
Chakotay mouthed 'get out of here' to Tom, who immediately said, "You have to start treating yourself better, B'E. Let's go grab a snack in the mess hall." He helped her off the biobed, and scurried out of the room with her, chattering about possible names for the baby.
"What is it, Doctor?" the Captain repeated, suspiciously this time. Chakotay climbed down from his biobed to hold the Captain's hand.
The Doctor would have preferred to keep B'Elanna around, just in case the Captain did anything untoward to his program in the next few minutes. It was time to face the music: "My scans show that you are also pregnant."
"Such are the miracles of ancient technology." The EMH was quite impressed; not a single child had been conceived on Voyager in seven years, but three out of the four women on the away team had come back pregnant. He had a direct connection to the medical database and had been aware of Jenny's diagnosis as soon as Tom had made it.
The Captain looked even more stunned than B'Elanna had. The Doctor suppressed the urge to wonder exactly how all this had come about without her knowledge. There were advantages to being a hologram - 'Don't go there' could be hardwired in if necessary.
She shook herself out of her stupor and said, "Well, I've had alien children before. I suppose I can handle it."
"It's fully human, Captain," the EMH said, glancing at Chakotay.
"Well, technically, the last ones were too; just highly evolved humans."
'Denial' diagnosed his Dr. Zimmerman substrate. 'You should know,' the sum of all doctors answered his creator. None of his constituent personalities were sure how to deal with the situation - these two weren't exactly Kirk and Spock. Fortunately, Chakotay saved him from having to spell it out for her.
"I'm the father, aren't I, Doctor?" he asked, bracing the Captain for the shock by wrapping an arm around her.
The Doctor nodded, relieved that at least one of the parents knew what was going on. "Unless there's something else I can do for you..." he prompted them, but the Captain remained silent and Chakotay shook his head. "Computer, deactivate Emergency Medical Hologram." Ah, sweet oblivion.
Saying, "I have hid my feelings, fearing they should do me wrong";
Saying, "Dost thou love me, cousin?" weeping, "I have loved thee long."
It was strange to see people wandering over the hills of the inner surface after having had Toleighanomir to themselves for so long. A larger turbolift, doubtlessly intended for cargo, brought a new group of Leigi from the airlock to the inner surface every hour. The surviving population of Leigus Fifteenth numbered in the millions, and the few Federation shuttlecraft would never be done with the task of carrying them away from their dying planet. The moon's transporters, once B'Elanna finished testing them, would--
Chakotay's thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of the next group of Leigi. With Ovin's help, he directed the essential personnel to the appropriate local buildings. The less essential milled around, waiting to be assigned to construction crews or sent to the more distant cities of the inner surface in order to prepare them for the coming millions.
Ken Dalby was running the turbolift. The controls were simple - a helix and a star denoted the two stops this lift could make - but Ken's duties were various. He welcomed the groups of Leigi, reassured them, and told them what to expect on the inner surface. Most importantly, he carried messages between the Leigan government and Chakotay and Ovin. Eventually they would figure out the moon's communications systems, but for now the engineering crews were focusing their attention on the transportation problem.
It seemed Ken had brought an important message; he stood in the door of the lift, obviously waiting for his senior officer to finish speaking to the new Leigi. Chakotay left Ovin to direct the rest of the crowd and walked over to Ken. Dalby hemmed a bit before he spoke.
"Chakotay," he said informally, as though there were still only seven of them in the moon, "Jenny and I are engaged." He used the Leigan word, which would be better translated as 'expecting'.
Chakotay held out his hand; "Congratulations!"
Ken hadn't finished, however. "Megan is the traditional sort - she doesn't approve of the Leigan way of getting married. Jenny would feel much better if you could marry us now."
"Me? I'm sure Captain Janeway would be glad to marry you two."
"Ovin assures me that you are the captain of Toleighanomir." It had become clear, over the course of the past few weeks, that his function on the ship was that of a captain, and that Janeway's duties were more scientific in nature. B'Elanna was content to be the Engineer, and Chakotay had avoided the issue of who was in command of the new ship - successfully so far. He hadn't expected it to come to a head in quite this way. Ken went on speaking about the Trivium and the command structure of the earliest Leigan colony ships - something he'd heard from Ovin, apparently. Chakotay forced his attention back to the conversation.
"--still a Maquis under this uniform, and you're still my captain. I would prefer it if you would marry us."
"Chakotay will be happy to oblige you," Kathryn's voice said from over his shoulder. "Have Neelix help you make the arrangements." She stepped forward to shake the groom's hand. "Congratulations, Ken."
"Thank you, ma'am," Dalby replied, and retreated into the lift as though he had been dismissed more explicitly.
Chakotay turned to face her, wondering how much of the conversation she'd heard. They had been going non-stop since they'd arrived; Tuvok had summoned them directly from sickbay and the evacuation of Leigus Fifteenth had begun immediately. It seemed she'd finally found time for The Talk, and had mixed in with the Leigi refugees in order to see him.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked.
He knew she wasn't referring to the captaincy. "I didn't know." Her pregnancy had been a surprise to him - one of those surprises that you knew you should have seen coming a mile away, but a surprise nonetheless.
"You knew. I thought it was just a dream." Well, she'd done her best to think so at the time, anyway.
"I didn't see the need to burden you. It irritates you enough that half the crew think we're involved, or ought to be. Would you have been pleased to hear that Toleighanomir was also in the act?"
"I'm your Captain. I need to know these things."
"You're my science officer, Kathryn. And you didn't want to know."
She did her best to ignore both points. "You weren't really worried about the ship changing course in our sleep, were you, Chakotay?"
"No, not particularly. It seemed to have more parochial plans."
"Well, you can sleep now. It has accomplished its objective."
"Are you sure about that?"
"No, but at least it can't do any more harm than it already has."
He gave her his best noncommittal ship's counselor look. It was hard, but he did it.
She smiled at him in response. "Cheer up, Chakotay - you're going to be a father. I suppose there are worse prices to pay for a ticket home. I used to dream that this voyage would cost me my life in the end; now my dreams are more...pleasant." She blushed. Not many people had seen, never mind made, Kathryn Janeway blush - he felt honored.
He ventured a grin. She was still smiling.
"Toleighanomir," she observed, "must be a Maquis ship. Not only is fraternization not against protocol, it *is* protocol."
"You shouldn't believe all those rumors about Maquis ships."
"I suppose I'll see for myself now."
Long ago he'd asked her a question; "So you *are* willing to serve under me?" he half-asked it again.
It was his turn to blush. Having ceded so much, she decided to establish a few parameters, for old times' sake. "But when you're on *my* ship, you will abide by Starfleet protocols. That includes calling me 'Captain'."
"Yes, ma'am." A full-dimpled smile escaped his careful vigilance. This was working out far, far better than he had dared hope. He silently thanked the Spirits and his aeons-dead 'brother'.
Woman is the lesser man, and all thy passions, match'd with mine,
Are as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine--
"How are the tests going, B'Elanna?" Janeway asked.
"Jarvin came through fine - in fact, the transporter seems to have removed all symptoms of radiation poisoning."
Jarvin had been one of the holdouts on the surface. He had finally crawled out of the woodwork when the new moon rose over Leigus Fifteenth. To atone for his sins, he'd volunteered to be the first live subject sent through Toleighanomir's long-dormant transporters. At least, the Captain had interpreted it as a penitential gesture and accepted it as such. She assigned him duties on the inner surface, helping the Leigi of whom he was so fond. He'd be of more use there than cooling his heels in the brig for desertion.
Medical benefits aside, she would have preferred to use her own cargo transporters rather than the millennia-old Leigan technology, but Voyager's transporters were undependable in the radioactive conditions plaguing Leigus Fifteenth. B'Elanna thought the Starfleet technology would be hard-pressed to evacuate a planet in any event, and Chakotay noted that Toleighanomir's transporters were designed with just such large-scale people-moving projects in mind. Janeway was outnumbered by the two of them, and overruled by him.
"He's the Captain," B'Elanna said, shrugging in sympathy.
Chakotay greeted all the Leigi as they arrived in great crowds on the main transporter pad of the inner surface. He, Ovin, Jarvin, and what remained of the government made the cramped housing arrangements. New buildings would be built later, once they were much farther away from the Periti. Considering that the Leigi's passion for reproducing themselves had only increased over the millennia, he figured they would be building new housing over the entire course of the trip.
According to Starfleet regulations and Federation law, the inhabitants of Leigus Fifteenth had the right to remain there and die of radiation poisoning. The Leigan officials, however, wanted to evacuate everyone by force, there being no concept in Leigan culture even approaching the right to die. B'Elanna had sided with Janeway on that issue, and Chakotay had compromised for the moment. They would beam everyone up, assign them quarters, and if, when they were through, some people still wished to remain behind, he would work something out for them.
Once the more reluctant Leigi found themselves aboard the ship of their ancestors, speaking to its charismatic Captain, the already-famous hero of Leigus Prime, they relented. Many decided to stay aboard for the long voyage. Only thirty thousand or so wished to reclaim Leigus Fifteenth, and these agreed to be dropped off at Leigus Forty-seventh, on the Beta Quadrant border of the Leigus Union, to enlist the aid of that colony's inhabitants for the massive cleanup operation and resettlement of Leigus Fifteenth.
"He's good," B'Elanna commented. Janeway nodded in agreement.
The evacuation and final arrangements took more than a month, and the trip to Leigus Forty-seventh consumed two more months. They dropped off the thirty thousand, and took on half a million more to replace them.
"Why?" Janeway asked Chakotay one morning; "The moon is already crowded, and if the replicators break down we'll all starve." She wasn't here on business, actually; it was a date, a picnic on his mountainside.
"This is not our ship, Kathryn," he answered, "it's theirs. If they wish to travel in it, then I will take as many as is physically possible. The Leigi know the risks of colonization."
"Where are we taking them all, Chakotay?" The moon was currently on a heading for DS9, but under warp power it would take them thirty years to get there. Besides, he could hardly mean to repopulate Dorvan with Leigi, could he?
"That depends on whether B'Elanna can restart the space-folding drive."
Considering that she would be showing soon, their fraternization hadn't progressed very far yet. They'd been busy, but that was not the real reason. Toleighanomir still reminded them of New Earth, despite the new population problem, and, just as in that other Eden, they knew they'd probably be stuck here together for the rest of their lives. They could afford to take their time.
Kathryn kissed him lightly, then stood up on the ancient grass, offering him a hand up. They walked hand-in-hand back to his mountainside control center, which was, like hers elsewhere, an exact replica of the one in Engineering.
She brushed her hand across the console, and, walking up to a star chart, called up an image with a few now-routine motions.
"M31: the Andromeda galaxy," he read off the bottom of the screen. Seven and Ovin had managed to teach the computer Standard and Leigan names, respectively, for whatever they could identify in its database.
The cold light of distant stars gleamed in Kathryn's eyes. Chakotay didn't balk at it as Tom once had. He stood beside her, smiling up at the image. "To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths / Of all the western stars..."
"Tennyson." She always had to have the last word.
There the passions cramp'd no longer shall have scope and breathing space;
I will take some savage woman, she shall rear my dusky race.
Janeway had moved back to her quarters on Voyager as soon as the ship was safely docked inside Toleighanomir. The location was convenient to her control center in the airlock, and she certainly had plenty of work to do. B'Elanna still needed certain elements to restart the space-folding drive, elements that the moon was designed to extract from interstellar dust, if necessary. But the drive would be on-line faster if Janeway and Seven could find larger deposits in nearby nebulae.
Now that they were out of the war zone - that is, the Leigus Union - the Captain gave Carey permission to shut down Voyager completely in order to facilitate repairs. She, Seven and the handful of other crewmembers still living aboard ship gathered their belongings and transported to the inner surface.
Ovin greeted them at the transporter pad. He dispatched several assistants to lead the junior officers to their new quarters in the city which had sprung up at the base of the mountain. A few more Leigi relieved Janeway and Seven of their burdens and followed at a respectful distance as Ovin led them up the mountainside from which they'd first seen the inner surface.
It was getting on towards twilight, which put Janeway in mind of her first days on Toleighanomir. Chakotay had never moved out of the building they'd camped in back then. As they approached it, she and Seven were surprised to see a crowd of young Leigi women on the hillside near the doorway. The girls parted before Ovin like a sea of reeds, and closed again behind Seven's two porters, who were lagging behind under their load of Borg technology.
Janeway quickly found herself alone in the room she'd left almost four months before. Nothing had changed - the emergency thermal blanket still covered the bed, and her environmental suit was folded up and gathering dust in a corner. Not in the mood to unpack, she left her possessions in the small cargo containers the porters had dropped off, and wandered out to the main room.
Chakotay was there, sitting on a low bench against the wall - the closest thing to a couch in the ancient decor. Other buildings were being modernized, but he was attached to this one as it was.
She sat down beside him. "What are all those girls doing outside?"
"They want to get engaged," he answered wryly.
"Have you taken up matchmaking now?"
"No," he chuckled. "Tom says I've been voted the Leigus Union's 'most eligible bachelor'."
"I thought we were engaged," she said huskily, leaning against him.
"The girls don't know that." He wrapped an arm around her possessively. "You haven't been by much since Ken and Jenny's wedding."
"Well, now that I've moved in, you can send them away." It was an order, not a suggestion.
She never did get around to unpacking her room.
Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
It took another six months to get the space-folding drive running, but once it was up, the leap into the heart of the Alpha Quadrant was almost instantaneous. So they returned home without warning. A huge new asteroid appeared in the asteroid belt around Sol. Sensors overlooked it - B'Elanna had discovered Toleighanomir's stealth systems. Tom had also kept himself busy rebuilding his favorite toy. A door opened in the asteroid's side, and out it flew.
Lieutenant Hildegaard of the Io Defense Station was still jumpy, years afterward, over the Borg invasions and the Dominion war. He was on duty when a small ship appeared on the Terran Defense Network sensor grid.
"It has a Starfleet warp signature, but it's not any known vessel," he reported to his superiors. And it was just sitting there on the edge of the asteroid belt - like a Borg space-mine delivered by transwarp, the paranoid Lieutenant thought.
Cannon-fodder duty was his next thought, as the order came through to man the Defiant-class ship stationed at Io and intercept the mystery vessel. How he hated the whole show-of-non-force policy Starfleet had adopted in Sector 001. He wished he were on patrol duty in the Neutral Zone instead, where you treated your enemies like the menace they were. Sighing, he followed Commander Kravitz onto the ship, and took up his usual position at Ops.
The space-mine responded to all hails with "We know who you are. We know where we are. Please put us through to Admiral Paris."
"Identify yourselves," Hildegaard demanded for the fourth time. Nice design on that ship, he thought, now that they were in visual range. Though undoubtedly of Starfleet design, it reminded him of a few ships he'd seen back in the demilitarized zone during the Dominion war - slick little things the Maquis used to buy from the Ferengi with stolen Cardassian latinum. The thought of the Maquis and the Federation on the same side nudged a memory in the back of his mind, but he couldn't quite pin it down.
"Delta Flyer III," Hildegaard read aloud off the mystery ship's bow. "What sort of name is that?"
"I take it there is no such ship in the Starfleet registry," Kravitz said, thinking it was probably cobbled together by a band of renegades who'd stolen a Starfleet warp core and come to make demands of the Admiral. But why Paris, of all people?
"No, sir; she's not listed in any registry." But then, Starfleet didn't really put much effort into keeping its own ship registry updated - and we set the tone for the quadrant, Hildegaard reflected. Too many wars lately, too many subtractions from the rolls and not enough additions--
"Could it be a prank by the guys at Utopia Planetia?" the helmsman asked.
"No, Matos. That ship is built of spare parts - look at the hull plating, for instance. Hildegaard, hail them again," the Commander ordered.
"We regret to inform you," a sardonic voice answered them, "that you are still not Admiral Paris."
Hildegaard snapped the commlink shut in irritation. "Incoming message from Starfleet Command, sir. Admiral Paris wants to know who they are."
"Is he willing to talk to them?"
Hildegaard sent the query, and waited for a response from the Admiral's secretary. Instead, the Admiral's voice came over the link.
"What is going on out there? Who are they?"
"The ship is marked Delta Flyer III," Kravitz replied. "It has a Starfleet--"
"Did you just say Delta Flyer?" the Admiral's voice interrupted.
"Maintain radio silence until I arrive. Paris out."
Hildegaard figured the Admiral wasn't as out of the loop as the Registry. Something big was going down, probably involving Section 31 and whatever new cloaking device had brought this ship to the very doorstep of Earth undetected. Who else would have the nerve to summon an Admiral like a stray dog? Someone did; he felt a name on the tip of his tongue, but the memory eluded him again.
Tom smiled at Harry. First Contact was going pretty well. Captain Janeway had sent them 'because you have a history of resisting interrogation.' Chakotay wouldn't let the Triumvirate off Toleighanomir - Janeway because she was overdue for a court martial, and himself and Torres because they were Maquis renegades still wanted at this end of the galaxy. Tom and Harry had instructions not to leave the Delta Flyer, just to retrieve Tom's father if they could.
The Admiral arrived in a shuttlecraft and beamed aboard Kravitz' ship. From their bridge, he hailed the Delta Flyer. "This is Admiral Paris. What can I do for you?"
"It's good to hear your voice, sir." The unidentified voice sounded more choked up than sarcastic this time, and Hildegaard could see a tear form in the Admiral's eye. Suddenly he, too, realized where the Delta Flyer had come from, who had cobbled it together, and what woman dared summon Admiral Paris (through his son) like the hoary old spacedog he was.
They had been the talk of Starfleet for years, though official news was scanty. 'Kathryn Tiberias Janeway,' people called her, saying with awe, 'she couldn't tell the Prime Directive from a hole in the wall.' That ship must have come from the Delta Quadrant, and, the Lieutenant concluded, they meant to show off the new drive by taking the Admiral for a transgalactic ride. It was the chance of a lifetime, and Hildegaard wasn't going to let it slip away.
Over these rapid thoughts he had heard the Admiral arranging to beam over to the Delta Flyer and ordering the other ships to stand down. "Permission to speak, Admiral, sir," the Lieutenant said.
"Granted," he replied impatiently.
"It is against regulations for an officer of your rank to board an unidentified vessel unaccompanied."
"That's the Delta Flyer, Mister."
"They have not identified themselves as such, sir."
"What's your security clearance, Lieutenant..." - the Admiral paused as though searching his memory - "Hildegaard?"
"Fine, come along."
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.
While the Admiral hugged his son, Harry and Hildegaard introduced themselves. "It's an honor to meet you, Ensign Kim. You're a hero back here, you know."
"Me? I'm not even a Lieutenant."
"What's she like, your Captain?"
"Indescribable, Hildegaard - she's indescribable."
The Admiral had finished hugging and was now huffing and puffing. "Good work, son. What sort of drive did you put in this thing?" He assumed this was a test flight for some new slipstream drive Voyager's Captain had wisely ordered them to keep secret.
"Have a seat, Dad," Tom answered. When the Admiral was seated and Hildegaard positioned protectively beside the chair, Tom continued speaking. "There's nothing in the Delta Flyer but a standard-issue warp drive. We...found...a transwarp-capable ship on the border of the Beta Quadrant. The Captain invites you to visit it. Your ships, however, will have to stay here." Admiral Paris was silent. "Don't worry, we won't leave the sector," his son added.
The Admiral hailed the other ships and told them to hold their positions. "Ok, so show me."
Tom sat down at the - unique, Hildegaard thought - controls of the Delta Flyer, turned her about and headed back into the asteroid belt. The Admiral watched in fascination as one asteroid grew larger and larger, until it took on planetary proportions. Hildegaard cursed the worthless Terran sensor grid that had missed a potential enemy the size of the moon.
The illusion of a barren planetoid was dispelled by the opening before them. For a moment Hildegaard lost his bearings, as the moon's horizon disappeared and the viewscreen was filled with an impossibly large black wall, and then a small opening revealing a cavern the size of a spacestation, bathed in yellow light.
Once the Delta Flyer was safely docked beside Voyager, Tom and Harry escorted their guests through transparent passageways towards a glassed-in room overlooking the docks. Along the way, the Admiral noticed a network of laboratories staffed with humanoids, some in Starfleet uniforms. He recognized the EMH and the former Borg drone known as Seven of Nine.
Hildegaard glanced around the central chamber, which was dominated by a triangular console. Much of the glass was obscured by semi-transparent images of the solar system, its asteroid belt, Earth, and various starfields. The Admiral's attention, however, was fixed on the redhead at the console. She seemed taller than he remembered.
She turned to her guests and said, "Admiral Paris, welcome to Toleighanomir."
"Kathryn, it's good to see you again," he replied, but his eyes asked, what is this place?
"Let me show you around."
"We came across a humanoid civilization which extended far into the Beta Quadrant. They were warp-capable, peaceful explorers like ourselves."
"But?" the Admiral prompted her. He knew things in the Delta Quadrant were never quite so simple.
"But then a war started. Voyager was caught in a surprise attack against the Leigus Union. She was crippled, without dilithium, in a slowly decaying orbit around a dying planet. On a mission to retrieve dilithium from the besieged Leigan homeworld, we found this ship.
"Two of my officers and I accidentally became embroiled in the workings of Toleighanomir. We appear to be essential to its operation. Our current mission is the transport of the population of that devastated Leigan world to a new, less poisonous, planet."
The Admiral offered the displaced Leigi their choice of Federation colony planets.
"I'm afraid, Owen, that the captain of Toleighanomir is unimpressed with the Federation's past treatment of colonists and colony worlds." Tom, tagging along on the tour, grinned. Hildegaard recalled that the Admiral's son was once a Maquis himself - had he been the one to poison the Leigan captain's mind against the Federation? Janeway continued, "Also, the Leigi would prefer not to colonize a heavily inhabited area like the Alpha Quadrant. We plan to find a few suitable worlds in Andromeda."
Hildegaard gasped. The Admiral's jaw dropped.
"I will have to go along for this trip. It seems to me, Owen, that I ought to visit our galactic neighbor as a representative of the United Federation of Planets. But if you prefer, I could hand Voyager and my resignation over to you, in which case I would kindly request safe passage through Federation space for this Leigan vessel."
"And what if I agree? What sort of a fleet will you want to bring along? That's quite a spacedock you have out there."
"Just Voyager. To tell you the truth, Owen, I don't think another crew could take the strain. Mine is a deep space crew - they've seen the Void and come through it in one piece. Can you say the same of any other Starfleet crew?"
"We're a bunch of hillbillies by comparison."
"I didn't say it. But we won't be turning around to deliver the homesick."
"You have a point - I'll run it by Starfleet. They'll approve if I have anything to say about it."
Baby lips will laugh me down; my latest rival brings thee rest.
Baby fingers, waxen touches, press me from the mother's breast.
Neither the Admiral nor his ersatz bodyguard was prepared for the sight that met their eyes as they stepped out of the turbolift. It hadn't occurred to them that the moon might be hollow. As their guests gaped, Janeway drew Tom aside and whispered in his ear. Tom smiled and nodded; Janeway touched his arm - she still does that, Owen noted - and started up the mountainside.
Soon she turned aside and waited at the doorway of a low building for the rest of the party to catch up. They followed her inside, through a corridor into a large central room, where several young Leigan women were cooing over equally many babies. Tom strode through the crowd and took a wee bundle from one of the girls. He cuddled the baby, turning her so that her grandfather could see her face. The elder Paris noticed the faint ridges on the infant's forehead and the ring on Tom's finger almost at once - his eyes widened in surprise.
"Your granddaughter," the visiting Lieutenant heard Tom Paris say softly, but he was more interested in another scene. One of the native girls - can a hollow asteroid have natives? Hildegaard wondered - had approached Kathryn T. Janeway with a similar bundle. The Captain of Voyager touched the tiny cheek, but waved the girl away before the Admiral noticed.
"Where is my daughter-in-law? Come to think of it, I haven't seen any of your Maquis crew, Kathryn."
"You've seen me, Dad," Tom teased him, then started to say, "B'Elanna can't be parted from the engines--"
Janeway silenced him with a look and took over his explanation. "I regret to inform you that my Maquis crewmembers resigned their commissions before we entered Federation space. They also renounced their Federation citizenship and were granted amnesty by the Leigan government. As we have no extradition treaty in place with the Leigus Union--"
"I understand, Kathryn. I am duly impressed with your diplomatic acumen," the Admiral replied, chuckling softly.
After leaving Toleighanomir, the Admiral spent a week pushing the desired arrangements through Starfleet. Perhaps it helped that most of the Admiralty barely believed his story. Also, not even Admiral Necheyev was particularly interested in prosecuting Janeway behind closed doors. They would have remanded her to the Leigi whatever the verdict, since no one was willing to give up a new galaxy for Necheyev's little vendetta against the Maquis. Starfleet merely insisted on monitoring the crew as they took their long-awaited shore leave on Earth and other Federation planets. Admiral Paris read these reports with great interest, and saw much more in them than met the eye.
A Federation shuttlecraft made for an old Maquis hideout on Bajor. Bajoran Intelligence sent back blurry photos of two men Starfleet Intelligence identified as Dalby and Ayala, still listed in the registry as members of Voyager's crew. From there, vague rumors spread throughout the demilitarized zone, promising 'a galaxy without Cardassians' to all displaced and oppressed colonists.
A full pardon was granted to Thomas Eugene Paris, in absentia, at a hastily convened session of the New Zealand parole board. Speaking of which, no interesting news had yet come from the Altassa penal colony on the Federation side of the demilitarized zone, to which Starfleet, after the Dominion war, had insisted all the Cardassians' Maquis prisoners be sent. In return, the Cardassians had demanded extraordinarily high security for the facility, the ability to inspect it without notice, and finally, that the Federation put its Maquis prisoners there as well, though many of the latter were decorated Starfleet officers serving their time in low-security facilities like the one in New Zealand.
Back then he had been one of the few to protest that a prison full of Maquis was an accident waiting to happen. Now Admiral Paris considered alerting Altassa, but quickly dismissed the thought - their security was so high that there was no real way to tighten it, especially against a ship only slightly smaller than Altassa itself, one that no sensor could detect. He awaited news from that quarter.
Kathryn, he heard, had spent three weeks with her family in Indiana, bringing a Leigan girl and her baby in tow. Afterwards, Gretchen and Phoebe Janeway could not always be accounted for. Tuvok was at home on Vulcan; his wife T'Pel resigned her university position unexpectedly. A Ktarian with an unpronounceable name likewise resigned and left a Federation space station for parts unknown. Several unidentified persons in Starfleet uniform made a scene in a Paris nightclub, which they had insisted on referring to as "Sandrine's." They evaded the local constables.
An Intrepid-class ship was brought into Utopia Planetia under sealed orders for a rapid refit. Diplomatic relations were established with representatives of the Leigus Union, listed as a civilization of the Beta Quadrant recently encountered by one of Starfleet's deep space vessels - the report failed to mention which one.
One report amused him immensely: A man resembling Admiral Paris' lost son had been seen entering the Paris family home in San Francisco. Also spotted at the time were an unidentified Klingon woman and her child. Starfleet Intelligence was watching his house guests carefully as they toured the countryside. They were suspected in the Sandrine's incident, though there was little evidence.
When he finished chuckling, he reflected on the larger pattern. His son had not come to Earth until Kathryn had left - was it some sort of security precaution? And one person never appeared, no matter how carefully the Admiral read between the lines.
Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth!
Cursed be the social lies that warp us from the living truth!
The Triumvirate gathered to lay in their course. B'Elanna wanted to stop at one of the colonies near the demilitarized zone, and Chakotay had already arranged to pick up Dalby, Ayala 'and maybe some more people' at Dorvan. The Captain would take the Delta Flyer out to Utopia Planetia, collect Voyager, and gather her scattered crew. The two ships would meet up at DS9, fold past Cardassian space, avoiding it completely, and make one final pause at the edge of the galaxy nearest Andromeda, just to get a look at their destination. Such was the plan, roughly speaking.
B'Elanna and Chakotay saw Kathryn and the baby off on the Delta Flyer. The engineer gave her a message for Tom and tried not to watch the tender parting scene. She wondered how he could kiss his wife that way, considering the use to which he intended to put her absence. Torres' cheeks were still red when the shuttle door closed; as they walked back to the control room she turned to Chakotay and commented, "I still don't think we're going to get away with this."
"We'll be at the edge of the galaxy before anyone knows they're gone."
Torres wasn't so sure about that part of the plan. "We're not Maquis anymore," she protested impotently.
"You never stop being Maquis. I'm sorry if no one warned you about that part."
He was right. She wasn't willing to leave her old comrades in a Federation penal colony, especially when the only thing between her and a cozy cell in that same penal colony was the impenetrable crust of Toleighanomir.
"What if they don't want to come? Will we leave them on Dorvan?" she asked.
"We'll be back in a few years. Most of them wouldn't even have been released by then."
In other words, B'Elanna grumbled to herself, you never stop being Maquis. When they reached the control room, she called up the intelligence reports about Altassa that she'd purloined from her father-in-law's home computer terminal. 'By any means necessary,' Tom had whispered in her ear, before bringing the baby out to her doting grandfather and informing him that the exhausted mother was taking a nap. She hoped Admiral Paris wouldn't be implicated in the prison break. More importantly, she hoped *she* wouldn't be implicated in the prison break.
"Are you ever going to tell her we did this?" Torres asked, gazing up at a schematic of the prison.
'Her' meant Kathryn, of course. "If she asks," Chakotay replied. "But I'd rather not give her a reason to ask." He'd cleared the entire Starfleet crew off Toleighanomir for just that reason. The freed Maquis would have blended in with the millions of Leigi passengers by the time Voyager rejoined them.
He touched the console, and the moon went to warp.
Janeway summoned her helmsman to Voyager; Admiral Paris hugged his son one last time and watched him dematerialize. Intelligence reports began to trickle in as Voyager's crew disappeared from various Federation worlds. Only a handful had decided to stay - mostly crew from the Equinox. It seemed that the comforts of home faded after the first few months and deep space called to Voyager's crew.
Despite the resignation of her Maquis crewmembers, Janeway had been reluctant to take on replacements. The Admiral suspected the Maquis would regain their field commissions at the edge of the Federation. At least he'd convinced her to take on Lieutenant Hildegaard and a few engineers from Utopia Planetia.
Colonists and former Maquis were gathering on Dorvan V - three thousand so far and more coming, according to Starfleet Intelligence. The Cardassians didn't seem to mind, yet. If they filed a complaint, he planned to tell them it was only a sort of reunion that would disperse without violence soon enough.
Some weeks later, the long-awaited report appeared on his desk. The Admiral read it over slowly, then laughed until his aide came into the office looking worried about him.
Mother-Age (for mine I knew not) help me as when life begun:
Rift the hills, and roll the waters, flash the lightnings, weigh the Sun.
Toleighanomir's transporters had pierced the radioactive cloud around Leigus Fifteenth, and as far as B'Elanna could tell, they were capable of beaming through the heavy shielding of Altassa. But like the rest of the moon, their purpose was peaceful - they were designed to disable all weaponry in transit. A fight, therefore, was out of the question.
Although most of Voyager's Maquis crew were gathering at Dorvan right now, Carlson was still aboard, and he had a certain talent for impersonation. She had laughed when Tom first suggested that part of the plan, until she realized what a good cover story it would provide. Carlson only had to fool them for a few minutes.
Using the schematics of the prison as her guide, Torres prepared to transport everyone who was not in a cell into a large, secure building on the inner surface at the moment the moon dropped out of warp.
"Now!" she shouted, though Toleighanomir's comm system could have conducted a whisper.
The jailers, including four visiting Cardassian observers, materialized in the large, darkened room. The ancient technology produced no shimmer and the new arrivals experienced no feeling of being transported. In the sudden darkness, they shouted alerts and reached for communicators, but no signal would escape the moon's crust. In the midst of the confusion, Carlson snapped his fingers. A spotlight appeared in the rafters, shining on him.
"Please calm down, ladies, gentlemen, Cardassians."
"Who are you?" "Where are we?" "I demand an explanation." "This is an outrage!" and various other predictable shouts greeted Carlson. The more alert among his guests drew their phasers, but Carlson snapped again, B'Elanna providing the trademark flash of light, and the weapons appeared to become useless.
"I am Q. I have come to investigate your primitive penal system. I heard that Altassa was the premiere facility in the quadrant--"
At this point, the murmurs drowned him out. Those who kept up with such things were telling the others, including the angry Cardassians, who Q was and what his powers were. A few guards tried to rush him, but he waved his hand menacingly as they approached the force-field Chakotay had set up hours before and they bounced back.
B'Elanna signaled Carlson, "I have the Maquis."
"As I was saying, I heard that this was the best the Federation had to offer, but I have found it highly reprehensible. The penal system of the Donji is far superior. Their main penal colony, Decron III, in the Gamma Quadrant, is a gorgeous world, with pristine beaches and perpetually sunny weather. I have remanded your prisoners to their custody. By the way, are any of you prisoners?"
Two figures in the back, still held by the guards who had been transferring them to another cell, shouted "Yes!" Carlson waved an omnipotent finger and Torres beamed them over to the main transporter pad, where Chakotay was greeting the other prisoners.
"Are the rest in uniform?" Torres asked her Leigi assistants, who were gazing up at infrared displays of the darkened room.
"Yes, ma'am," they answered.
"You're clear, Q," she whispered to Carlson via the versatile comm system.
The faux Q continued his immortal tirade in an even more disgusted tone. "But, gentlemen, since you are so proud of your penal accomplishments, your humanitarian ideals, and your Federation civilization, I will not deprive you of their benefits." He snapped his fingers. In a dramatic flash of light, B'Elanna beamed the jailers into the recently vacated jail cells.
Toleighanomir resumed course for Dorvan.
And his spirit leaps within him to be gone before him then,
Underneath the light he looks at, in among the throngs of men:
Chakotay contemplated the ruins of Dorvan. There had never been much to destroy, so it was easy for him to imagine that the scenes of his youth still existed, over the next dune or beyond one more outcropping. He almost wished his wife and child could be here with him to see it - almost. But it wasn't safe here; B'Elanna was keeping a transporter lock on him at all times, and an eye on every ship in the sector. Despite the dangers, he had come down early to see his homeworld, and to go on a vision quest.
The vision quest had gone well. For the past year, he had had difficulty distinguishing his own visions from the historical ones provided by Toleighanomir. Today he had seen a world not unlike Dorvan, under different stars, populated with Leigi and Maquis. It reassured him; before he had had his doubts about transporting the Maquis to Andromeda. He had wondered whether they would be willing to exchange the cause, the hopelessly lost cause, for a future in another galaxy. Now he was sure they would.
Chakotay strode confidently over the last hill and down towards the makeshift podium. The crowd looked larger close up. It seemed as though the entire surviving population of the demilitarized zone was gathered here in on this dusty plain. They sat on heaps of rock or broken walls, scattered debris which had once been the main city of Dorvan V. A great weight of history descended upon him, of people fleeing oppression, seeking newer worlds and wider skies - for a moment he couldn't move, but then the cloud lifted.
He mounted the podium with renewed energy and began his speech confident that his audience would follow him to the end of the universe: "Come, my friends,/ 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world..."
Larger constellations burning, mellow moons and happy skies,
Breadths of tropic shade and palms in cluster, knots of Paradise.
A moon took up orbit around Deep Space Nine. Secrecy was not an issue here in the no-man's-land near the wormhole - weird things appeared in the sky over Bajor all the time, and no one in the more civilized reaches of space paid much attention.
An Intrepid-class starship had parked among the motley assortment of ships on the docking ring the day before. Careful observers could make out a faint V, G and R on her refurbished, but not repainted, hull. Starfleet regulations required that the registry number be clearly marked and lit on all vessels, but fortunately no one attended much to regulations out here, either.
Weird people appeared at Quark's, and if they seemed inclined to spend seven years' back pay in one night, the Ferengi wasn't going to question their behavior. But he couldn't resist asking one pair in particular, "Haven't I seen you two in here before?"
Tom Paris and Harry Kim looked up from their drinks. They had assumed civilian attire would be enough of a disguise here - not that it mattered much at this point.
"Yeah, you tried to sell my friend here some Lobi crystals," the pilot said.
"That was eight years ago now," Harry added.
"Weren't you lost in the Delta Quadrant?"
The officers looked at one another. "Maybe."
"What's she like, your Captain?"
"See for yourself," Tom answered, nodding towards the promenade, "but bring coffee."
Quark ducked behind the bar and emerged with a tray. He scurried after Janeway and Tuvok - Harry could hear him begging the Captain for her autograph, "for my nephew Nog in Starfleet, who lost his leg in the war."
"I wonder how much he'll charge Nog for it," Tom reflected aloud.
Tom disappeared before his companion's eyes. "Hello to you, too, B'Elanna," Harry muttered. The suddenly solitary officer raised his glass, said, "To the Alpha Quadrant," and downed the drink in one gulp. Then he stood up, glancing around Quark's one last time, and went to inform Captain Janeway that Toleighanomir had arrived.
A young man trailed Harry. After months of investigating mysterious appearances and disappearances connected with the Intrepid-class starship now docked at DS9, not even Thomas Eugene Paris vanishing before his very eyes could surprise him. What was one more missing Maquis convict, considering the rumors now flowing out of Altassa Penal Colony? Nor was Paris the only long-time resident of the Delta Quadrant recently spotted here in the Alpha Quadrant.
The young journalist sensed that time was running out. When the redheaded woman had shaken Quark and dismissed Kim and Tuvok, he approached her.
Civilian duds could not disguise that death glare. Even if he hadn't been on this story for months, he would have known her now - the woman who had stared down the Borg. Often.
"Excuse me?" she said icily.
"Jake Sisko," he introduced himself, holding out his hand. "It's an honor to meet you, ma'am."
She stepped the glare down a few notches and shook his hand. He noted something odd about her palm and filed the information away for later consideration.
"I knew your father," she said wistfully. So many had died while she was away. The Alpha Quadrant wasn't what it used to be.
"I'm a reporter for the Federation News Service, Captain. I'd like to tell your story."
"What story would that be?" she asked.
"The whole quadrant wants to know where you've been, but I'm curious about where you're going."
She smiled and an answer danced in her eyes, but it chilled him somehow. For the first time in his career, Jake worried that he had uncovered more than he wanted to know.
"How far are you willing to go for a story?"
"Seventy thousand lightyears," he answered, guessing that Voyager was going back.
"Deep Space Nine isn't exactly on the way to the Delta Quadrant, Jake."
She was toying with him. He replied in kind, "DS9 isn't on the way to anywhere but Cardassia Prime, and I somehow doubt you're taking the surviving Maquis to the heart of the Cardassian Empire."
Her eyes narrowed at the thought that Sisko's boy knew what her husband was up to better than she did herself. She upped his bid: "Three million lightyears."
Andromeda, he realized, turning pale. He didn't hesitate, though. "I'm in."
"Voyager departs in twenty minutes."
Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.
They tooled around the galactic rim in Voyager for a couple of weeks, enjoying the view, casing anomalies and sampling the thinning interstellar dust at the edge of the Milky Way. Chakotay, again her First Officer - though Ayala had assumed his more mundane duties - wrapped an arm around Captain Janeway as she gazed out her ready-room viewport.
"It's beautiful," she said.
He glanced out the window at the still-distant spiral galaxy that was their destination, then back at her. There was no comparison. "You're beautiful," he said, leaning down to kiss her. She proffered only a cheek - she was on duty, after all. He chuckled at her protocols, knowing she'd be back aboard *his* ship in a few hours. "I met your reporter," he teased.
"'Ship's historian'," she corrected him, frowning. "I told him not to bother the senior staff."
"He said he was looking for 'the hero of Leigus Prime'. The Leigi brought him to me."
"Now that you've met my historian, maybe it's time I met your Maquis." She felt him stiffen suddenly. He was definitely up to something, but asking outright would get her nowhere - when he got protective there was no budging him. She might have to put Jake on the story.
For the moment, she let him off the hook. "It's time."
They returned to the bridge, and she gave the order to dock Voyager inside Toleighanomir.
Kathryn and Chakotay strode up the mountainside towards his control room. B'Elanna was already there, having made her final tour of inspection - all of Voyager's systems had to be shut down for the space-folding jump because of the possible adverse effects of anti-neutrinos. Now she was helping Jake Sisko configure the comm system for the inaugural broadcast of the Toleighanomir News Service. Jake also had his own equipment set up to record his report, though the FNS would have to wait quite some time for this scoop.
Jake was interviewing Tom Paris, mainly to test the system, when Chakotay and Janeway entered the control room. He thanked Tom quickly and began the official audio broadcast to the Leigi: "The Captain and Science Officer have just arrived on the bridge..."
Chakotay did his best to ignore the soft chatter of the TNS while Kathryn and B'Elanna laid in a course for Andromeda. His duties as captain were mainly administrative - he was in essence the president of a planet whose population numbered in the millions - except for this particular duty of engaging the engines. He was lowering his hand to the console, with a bit of ceremony for the benefit of the press, when a scroll appeared in the air over his head. It fell to the triangular tabletop with a soft thud. Janeway picked it up and unrolled it; Chakotay read over her shoulder.
"It's in Leigan," he said, and called Ovin over from his station at one of the viewscreens.
Ovin studied the writing, puzzlement evident on his face. "I don't understand," he said.
"Can you read it?"
"Yes, of course. It is a formal complaint lodged by...the Q Continuum. Most of it is standard legal language, but the offense listed is unusual: impersonation of an omnipotent being. It says that if you do it again, the punishment will be five to ten million years' incarceration, and not on Decron III."
Janeway glared at Chakotay and Torres. "Would one of you care to explain this?"
Her husband obliged her. "As the Captain of a Leigan colony ship, I am obliged by the Code of Colonization to give aid and comfort to any humanoid colonists I come across. That includes setting free those unjustly incarcerated."
In a nondescript city far across the inner surface, a crowd of Maquis listening to the TNS broadcast cheered his words.
"Are you saying you freed the Maquis to start another guerrilla war against the Cardassians?"
"No, Kathryn, they won't be fighting any more wars. They're all here, with us."
"Is that supposed to reassure me?" She tried to sound angry, but a little grin was pulling at the corner of her mouth. When the others smiled in relief, she gave up the pretense of anger and admitted, "I wish I could have seen you two playing god--"
"Excuse me, sirs," Ovin interrupted quietly, "but there's an addendum to the complaint. The Q congratulate you on 'moving up in the food chain', and they also warn you that there are more menacing things than the Borg out there."
"We'll just have to find that our for ourselves," Kathryn said, getting the last word yet again. Skipping the ceremony this time, Chakotay lowered his hand, and touched the future.
"For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" [TOS] (the ship)
"The Chase" [TNG] (seeding oceans with DNA)
"Prime Factors" [VOY] (the space-folding drive)
"Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" (the destruction of Praxis)